Charlotte Musarurwa Municipal Reporter
Urban councils countrywide are selling land earmarked for property development to meet their huge salary bills even as over 500 000 tenants on the national housing waiting list fail to buy affordable residential stands.Government says it will move in to control land where local authorities choose to sell to real estate instead of developing it for residents.
Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Engineer George Mlilo said: “It was a common practice in most councils to sell land; they documented it to us when we asked them how are you going to meet the shortfall on your salaries and they said we will sell land and that is the area we are worried about . . .
“And we are saying if a local authority dares to sell land to pay salaries, Government will take over the management of land because they are managing State land,” said Eng Mlilo.
Eng Mlilo said all proceeds from land sales should be channelled towards service delivery.
“I informed all local authorities in July that no local authority is authorised to sell land to pay salaries, but some continued. I clearly indicated that proceeds from land should be used for service delivery not for salaries. Salary problems is a management issue, so they must revisit their management skills within the revenues they are receiving.
“The key thing is that their employment costs were going as high as 150 percent of total revenue collected, which means to pay a month’s salary they must collect for two-and-a-half months.”
It emerged last week that council bosses had doubled their allowances, but Government said their budgets would not be approved as long as such perks subsisted.
The State has said remuneration costs should not exceed 30 percent of revenue, with the bulk of money generated going to service delivery.
Government earlier this year set a public sector salary ceiling of US$6 000, and local authorities have responded by cutting their basic pay but increasing allowances.
“This is the season that we want the budgets which is why we want all these hefty perks reduced before submission of the budgets. That must be taken aboard,” said Eng Mlilo.
“The town clerks are the drivers of these allowances because they have got personal interests . . . They must maintain a rational difference between the grades; standard best practice is about 12 percent between grades.”
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