The Sunday Mail
If truth be said, the MDC run Harare City Council has gone awry and the once sunshine city has turned into a pale shadow of what it ought to be as the capital of our beautiful Zimbabwe.
There is no doubt that the malaise that is at the centre of the MDC run council has more to do with successive inept leadership that is out of depth with what is mandated of them.
The Government had to swiftly intervene after Harare failed to initiate its external financial audit after it had been locked out of the BIQ revenue system for failure to pay US$75 000 annual license fees to Quill Associates, the South African developer of the municipal financial software.
Sadly, the Harare City Council cannot access new cheap funding from international municipal bonds without audited financial reports.
In her Local Authorities Financial Audit report of 2018, Auditor-General Mildred Chiri gave a qualified report on the Harare City Council whereupon she highlighted two significant issues: dire lack of technical capacity among elected councillors and the failure to have an updated asset register.
Auditor-General Chiri noted that; “Among the essential skills required in the Finance and Audit Committee are accounting/financial expertise. I noted that there is no representation of this discipline on the committee. This expertise will assist in ensuring effective oversight role on the internal control environment and integrity of financial reporting.”
The report further stated that the council had no consolidated asset register except for the sector asset registers, which were being maintained on excel spreadsheets which have no adequate controls despite the fact that council had an asset module on the BIQ system, which it was not utilising.
Now, this is sheer dereliction of duty, which is unacceptable in a capital city with the size of a budget almost that of a mini-government. Ratepayers would be interested to know that among the 46 councillors making up the council, none have engineering, accounting or town planning background.
It is, thus not surprising that Harare is in its current dire situation given the lowly intellectual capacity possessed by its councillors. We are hopeful that the intervention by Government through the Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province, Hon. Oliver Chidawu who has ordered the Harare City Council to conduct a forensic audit for land sales and market operations in a move aimed at ascertaining how the local authority can fully utilise its financial resources and provide effective service delivery.
Harare has for a long time faced challenges in procuring water treatment chemicals that have forced city fathers to shut down Morton Jeffrey Water Works, which supplies water to the city.
We hope the intervention by Government in writing off $135 million owed to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) will go a long way in capacitating council in dealing with the water crisis.
Ultimately, and for the long haul, financial prudence and operational transparency must be the hallmark of efficient management of city affairs. There is, therefore, urgent need for the Harare City Council to undertake an audit on its revenue streams.
The audit must, consequently, also look into the issues of skills including examining whether the current personnel is fit for purpose.
As noted by Minister Chidawu in one of our stories, management crisis is crippling efficient delivery of services at the Harare City Council and intervention is, thus, needed to ascertain how revenue is being used.
Given the ballooning population in greater Harare, city council must invest in the expansion or construction of other water works. Besides the issue of chemicals, the current water infrastructure seems to be overburdened and weighed down by demand of an ever growing population.
Another pertinent area that needs attention is that of road decongestion. At peak hours, Harare’s CBD is virtually impassable with commuter omnibus drivers being the major culprits. City council needs to engage town planning experts to relook at how the CBD can be decongested to allow free movement of traffic and pedestrians.
It is encouraging to note that Harare Mayor, Councillor Herbert Gomba has consented to the skills audit, which is part of a process of bringing sanity and normalcy to an entity long bedevilled by rampant corruption in terms of awarding tenders, sheer incompetence in having people under-qualified in certain positions and complete dereliction of duty by some council officials with a nauseating sense of entitlement.
Residents also watch with keen interests the City Council’s current grabbing and parcelling out of some recreational facilities in Harare. Where is the money from such sales going?
What is the impact of such a move to the maintenance of an eco-friendly city?
What is the impact of such a move to the ultimate goal of attaining a World Class City by 2025?
These questions are begging for answers.