BIKITA Rural District Council (BRDC) has been caught in a corruption storm in which officials registered in their personal names vehicles worth US$380 000 bought by the local authority, a report has revealed.
The council bought six Toyota GD6 trucks for its managers at an estimated cost of US$40 000 each through a loan facility.
But upon delivery the vehicles were registered in the names of the six managers, according to a situation report for May compiled by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd).
The procurement was done without the involvement of the main stakeholders – the residents – thereby raising questions on issues of transparency.
The ministry of Local Governance has been investigating the murky procurement deal.
BRDC was also embroiled in yet another murky transaction in which the cost of borehole drilling equipment for its water project was inflated by more than US$6 000, prejudicing taxpayers.
The local authority contracted Pote Drilling Company to drill four boreholes at a cost of US$9 000 each, despite other companies within the province charging low prices of US$1 500, according to the situation report.
A snap survey by The NewsHawks shows that some companies have been charging US$1 400 for borehole drilling and casing for 40 metres, and US$45 for every extra metre.
“The four boreholes were drilled in Bikita South’s Wards 1, 2, and 3. Bikita Rural District Council chairperson confirmed the drilling of the four boreholes (2 for the community; one for crèche and one for a school),” read the report.
This has seen villagers and councillors at loggerheads over the cost (US$9 000), which is five times more than the average charged by other companies.
“Under normal circumstances, US$36 000 can be used to drill at least 20 boreholes, and this could have gone a long way in solving the perennial water crisis in the Bikita district,” reads the report.
“Yes, I can confirm that we drilled four boreholes in Wards 1, 2, and 3 in Bikita South. However, the villagers are hot on our heels as they demand explanations regarding the cost which was between US$7 000 and US$9 000. We are also perplexed because the cost is too high, but we are going to ask the management to explain and account in our next meeting,” said the council chairperson for Bikita RDC in the report.
Other local authorities have also been under scrutiny for questionable dealings.
In March, Harare City Council borrowed ZW$1 361 080 800, which residents feel has not been properly prioritised to solve service delivery problems facing the city, according to the Zimcodd situation report.
According to the breakdown, renovation of the Rowan Martin Building was allocated ZW$120 000 000, which was ZW$20 000 000 more than the amount for water provision, an urgent matter in Harare’s various suburbs.
Public lighting was given the highest allocation of ZW$322 400 000, waste management ZW$261 500 200, health ZW$163 500 000, service vehicles ZW$98 750 000 and traffic management ZW$73 400 000.
“Currently, Harare’s billing system is in shambles, and borrowing such an amount without addressing fundamentals for revenue collection is a recipe for disaster,” says the report.
Poor debt recovery strategies have also seen local authorities paying for goods and services that have not been delivered, while failing to keep asset registers and undertaking proper property registers, reads the report.
Harare City Council lost US$1.8 million in a botched trash compactor deal in which FAW Zimbabwe could not deliver 15 out of 30 trucks it was contracted to procure in 2017.
Residents say there is a need for their inclusion in the budgeting processes.
Harare Residents Trust (HRT) says while mechanisms to include residents in the public resource management process have been available, little has been done to address their grievances.
“The stakeholders’ policy of the City of Harare requires them to widely consult residents before implementation of their policies,” said Precious Shumba, HRT director. “While these safeguards exist to provide citizens with the opportunity to fully participate and share their thoughts and ideas, the ward-based budget consultative meetings are cosmetic and symbolic in character.
“The input by residents is not always included in the final (financial) budget which increases apathy and tensions between residents and their council.”