Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
CASES of lack of accountability, violation of procedures and non-compliance by local authorities have continued to rise over the years, a sign that the provision of service delivery is weakening in the country, the Auditor General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, has said.
In her annual report on local authorities, Mrs Chiri said during the year under review, 59 governance issues were noted from local authorities and these related to absence of policies and procedures as well as non-compliance with statutory regulations.
She said there was a need for improvement in accountability in local authorities.
“The number of reported service delivery issues have risen over the years, which is a sign of weakening service provision by various local authorities. It’s of great concern that governance issues over the years have continued to dominate my findings. Although there was an improvement from 2015 to 2016 (reduction from 68 percent to 49 percent), there has been a notable surge from 49 percent to 67 percent in the governance issues in 2017 and 2018 respectively,” said Mrs Chiri.
The Auditor-General said 70 local authorities had not submitted their financial statements for audit as at May 31.
For Bulawayo she said: “A car loan agreement to an employee with a value of $434 450 was not approved by the town clerk as per procedure. The agreement was only signed by the employee. There was also no contract for a car loan amounting to $8 743 advanced to another employee.”
She said there was risk of financial loss due to violation of procedures and lack of basis for legal recourse in the event of disputes.
“Gweru City Council could not reconcile rates and water accounts amounting to $12 738 875 and $7 312 445 to bank statement balances of $303 942 and $70 582 respectively. Its employees have accumulated excess leave days which effectively implies that some of them have not been on leave for at least 17 years and others 24 years. Gweru was also unable to provide layout plans for the stands sold during the year,” said Mrs Chiri.
She said Tsholotsho RDC monthly payroll schedules could not be availed. Payroll for the year was extrapolated from a July 2016 payroll schedule which was incomplete as it excluded the chief executive officer.
Mrs Chiri said Tsholotsho RDC also received Zimdef funds from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development and there was no transparency in the use of the money.
“These funds were utilised by the council without any supporting documents availed to audit for my inspection. On enquiry with management about the nature of the arrangement and the reasons why the monies had been transferred out, the explanation proffered was that the transactions had been done on the instruction of the then Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Jonathan Moyo,” said Mrs Chiri.
At Kusile RDC, the Auditor General said stands owned by employees were exempted from rate charges, which was in contravention of the Urban Councils Act Chapter 29:15. Mrs Chiri said Bubi RDC among others were operating without key policies and procedure manuals.
She said the local authority could not provide documentation to support exemption of the council employees from paying rates.
At Hwange RDC, council had a vehicle which was not registered in its name and no documentation was availed to explain or support how the vehicle had been acquired.
Upon inquiry, Mrs Chiri said council indicated that one of the debtors paid using a vehicle acquired from a third party who left the country without signing the necessary transfer papers.
Government has said it will soon write letters to all parastatals, departments and local authorities emphasising the need to act urgently on the recommendations of the Auditor General. — @pamelashumba1