Acting Harare town clerk faces suspension

Source: Acting Harare town clerk faces suspension | The Financial Gazette February 23, 2017

ACTING Harare City Council town clerk Josephine Ncube faces suspension, along with three other council directors, for pampering themselves with generous benefits and allowances at a time when service delivery in the capital city has hit its lowest ebb.
A government-sanctioned audit recommended that Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere suspends Ncube, the city’s human capital director, Cainos Chingombe and acting finance director, Tendai Kwenda, with immediate effect, pending further investigations.
This was after auditors dispatched by the Local Government Ministry unearthed what appears to be extravagant use of ratepayers’ money between 2013 and last year — a period when Tendai Mahachi was still calling the shots at Town House, as town clerk.
Mahachi was axed from council in July 2015.
The audit revealed that five managers were collectively paid US$343 900 as holiday allowances between March and July 2015, through the Real Time Gross Settlement system (RTGS) yet there was no proof that they ever went for any holiday.
This was in breach of council’s conditions of service that required them to produce evidence of travel in the form of receipts.
Mahachi was alleged to have taken the lion’s share, pocketing US$186 000, transferred into his bank account on July 7, 2015.
City of Harare health director, Proper Chonzi, was paid US$77 100; while Ncube and Chingombe got US$40 000 each. Phillip Pfukwa, the director of works, got US$3 440.
In another incident, Mahachi, Ncube, Chingombe, Chonzi and Pfukwa were paid inflated performance bonuses amounting to US$607 250. Again, Mahachi received the biggest chunk of it amounting to US$135 100. Ncube got US$122 000, while Chingombe was paid US$112 000.
Chonzi and Pfukwa received US$95 000 and US$21 450 respectively.
This time, they were joined by former water director, Christopher Zvobgo and Kwenda — the current acting as finance director, who pocketed US$80 000 and US$40 800 respectively.
The audit revealed that the city managers paid themselves hefty bonuses despite the fact that no performance appraisal was done as per requirement.
They also did not get council approval in violation of section 288 (7) of the Urban Councils Act, which stipulates that council shall not expend moneys unless such expenditure has been covered by estimates or approved supplementary estimates.
A performance bonus is compensation beyond normal wages and is awarded after a performance appraisal and analysis of projects has satisfactorily been completed by the employee over a specific period of time.
The city fathers also paid themselves hefty holiday allowances.
On July 7, 2015, they received a combined US$173 880 through what they termed “On Call” allowances.
The money, which was unbudgeted for, was shared among five managers namely Mahachi (US$50 400); Chingombe (US$47 880); Ncube (US$45 360); Pfukwa (US$17 640) and Zvobgo (US$12 600).Auditors also discovered that at least 40 city managers were paid “unbudgeted for exorbitant education/school fees allowances amounting to US$556 330 outside employment costs. The amounts as per invoices were paid directly into their personal bank accounts using the RTGS system”.
The amount paid to managers according to individual receipts was incongruent with the US$882 443 reflecting in the consolidated total payments, raising fears that it could have been inflated.
Kwenda, according to the auditors, reportedly raided council’s beer levy and estates accounts and transferred US$282 000 of which Mahachi received US$75 000, Chingombe (US$35 000), Pfukwa (US$42 000) and another manager simply identified as Zvikaramba (US$130 000) by means of RTGS system.
The intended use of this money was not documented while, according to the audit report, Kwenda failed to explain how it was used.
Beer levy is money collected from beer manufacturing and sales while the estates account is where residents deposit development fees for residential and commercial stands.
Auditors also discovered that council overpaid retrenchment packages to nine managers who were relieved of their duties in 2014 and 2015, amounting to US$1 618 000.
This resulted in the ballooning of employment costs at the expense of service delivery and timely payments of general staff salaries.
Auditors also noted a discrepancy in salary arrears between top management and the rest of staff.
Council was in five months’ salary arrears for the general staff as at December 2016 while executive salaries were only two months in arrears.
“As it stands, the council is being run by the chamber secretary (Ncube), human capital director (Chingombe) and finance controller (Kwenda), who all have negative audit observations where the minister should, through the council, cause them to show reason why the three should not be charged with misconduct, suspended from duty and further investigations to be carried out,” reads part of the audit report.
It further reads: “Given numerous overpayments, irregular and wasteful management costs noted in the executive payroll for the period under review, and in order to enhance transparency, accountability, risk management, internal checks and control systems, it is audit opinion that council should maintain one payroll for all council employees that is compiled by human capital development, have all payroll payments done by the finance department, allow internal audit department full access to combined payroll and all council’s bank accounts and fully utilise BIQ system modules.”
Contacted for comment this week, Kasukuwere said he was still studying the report before deciding on the way forward.
“I can confirm that I have received the audit report. I am looking into it and will make decisions afterwards,” he said.
Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, said council has instituted its own investigations and action would only be taken if they confirm the findings.
An independent tribunal was expected to have commenced the probe this week.
He said: “We don’t know yet (what course of action would be taken); the tribunal will make recommendations which we will abide by.”
While the city fathers are smiling all the way to the bank, service delivery in the capital has sunk to its lowest level.
The local authority is failing to supply clean water to residents; garbage is piling everywhere – precipitating deadly epidemics such as typhoid – and roads have been declared a national disaster