via Call to probe all Harare City deals | The Herald June 25, 2014 by Farirai Machivenyika
Parliament should probe international business deals entered into by the Harare City Council to ascertain if they were transparently executed and the extent to which they benefit residents. Harare City Council has in the past few years entered into business deals with foreign partners although some of them have been shrouded in controversy.
Some loans secured by the local authority have also raised eyebrows as part of the money has allegedly been abused by some city officials for personal enrichment.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Rural and Urban Development yesterday, Harare Residents Trust director, Mr Precious Shumba, also said parliament should ensure accountability and good governance in local authorities to ensure sound service delivery.
“The Parliament of Zimbabwe through your committee needs to consider all international treaties and agreements relevant to the City Council, which are from time to time negotiated, entered into or agreed upon like the Easipark deal,” he said.
He added: “Sourcing of funding for council operations, especially capital projects have to be done in a transparent manner that promotes accountability. Residents of Harare are unaware of how much interest will be charged on the $144,4 million loan from the Chinese Eximbank, neither have residents been given an opportunity to view the documents relating to the loan.”
Concern has been raised on the high cost of material in the Chinese loan deal with a report by a consultant engineer last year indicating that council could have been prejudiced of up to $100 million through overcharging.
Apart from that council management went on to buy 25 luxury vehicles from the loan funds without following laid down procedures.
The council’s partnership in 2009 with EasiHold Pvt Ltd of South Africa, to form a parking company, Easipark also raised the ire of empowerment groups who accused the local authority of sidestepping indigenous players in the lucrative deal. Council has also, however, been involved in a legal wrangle with EasiHold amid counter accusations of diversion of funds from the project.
The agreement between the two parties will not be renewed when the contract expires in September this year.
In 2008, the council entered into a barter deal with Augur Investments that courted controversy after the City agreed to transfer 733,9 hectares of land for the construction of the 34km Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo (Airport) Highway.
The construction of the road was valued at $68, 6 million and was supposed to be completed in 2010, but was halted after the council opted out of the deal citing incapacity on the part of their partners to complete the deal.
Augur argued that the City had only transferred land valued at $20 million, which was equivalent to the work they did on the road.
The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration has since been tasked by Government to complete the project and yesterday Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu, toured the road to assess progress made so far.
The minister expressed satisfaction with progress made adding he was confident zinara would complete the work before the end of the year.
“I see a lot of progress on this long overdue project, which we started a long time ago and has recently been given to us and as you can see our teams are on the ground. Our projection is that this project should be completed by the end of the year,” he said.
The minister also said they would look to make alterations to the original design and would also introduce tolling on the highway once completed.