BY PROBLEM MASAU
DEVOLUTION funds are open to abuse and plunder by unscrupulous institutions and individuals who can easily turn them into feeding troughs at the expense of communities, NewsDay has established.
Investigations by NewsDay revealed that several local authorities are being investigated by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) for possible abuse of devolution funds.
Section 301(3) of the Constitution states that: “Not less than 5% of national revenue raised in any financial year must be allocated to the provinces and local authorities as their share in that year.”
Between 2019 and 2021, government disbursed a total of $2,2 billion through the Local Government ministry for devolution to rural and urban local authorities countrywide.
Zacc spokesperson John Makamure said there was an on-going operation targeting local authorities over mismanagement of funds.
“There is an ongoing operation, which we call review and compliance of proper procedures in local councils and other departments,” he said.
Recently, Zacc pounced on Guruve chief executive officer Tinos Marisa, who is facing abuse of office charges, theft of bricks, drilling boreholes at his farm using council property and misuse of devolution funds.
The arrest of Marisa came hard on the heels of the arrest of 11 Mutare city councillors who defied a directive by Local Government minister July Moyo not to increase their allowances above amounts gazetted by the ministry.
Zacc has conducted six compliance checks in local authorities’ procurement processes and on how devolution funds have been used.
The local authorities include Mutoko Rural District Council, Norton Town Council, Umzingwane RDC and Umguza RDC.
Six councillors in Umguza have been suspended for trying to frustrate the Zacc probe. The commission said investigations into the matter have been completed while a report will be made to the public.
Ironically, while Zacc is gunning for local authorities, Moyo has also been in the eye of a storm after ordering local authorities to pay for fire tenders from Belarus using devolution funds, albeit the prices having been allegedly inflated.
The scam came at a time when Parliament professed ignorance of any existing documentation supporting the fire tender deal, which will see Alyaksandr Zingman pocketing over US$62 million just for providing 63 rural district councils, 32 urban local authorities and metropolitans with fire engines at inflated prices.
Moyo has written to town clerks and chief executive officers stating that failure to pay for the equipment will result in deductions from the 2022 devolution allocations over a period of 12 months starting from March 2022.
While addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing last Tuesday, Moyo said: “We are not forcing this on local authorities. As government, we realised that the fire tenders are good for people in both rural and urban areas. If they don’t want to, we have already negotiated with the firm. We will just deduct it from their devolution funds.”
Moyo has also forced Harare City Council to start paying a US$340 million Pomona waste management bill to Geogenix BV, failure of which he would use the devolution funds meant for Harare to pay the bill.
African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption Zimbabwe chapter chairperson Temba Mliswa believes devolution funds are open to abuse.
“While the devolution vision is good, we started it wrongly. The people on the ground don’t even know what the money is being used for,” he said.