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Governance shortcomings of local authorities revealed

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BAD corporate governance, corruption, mismanagement and lack of accountability continued to haunt most local authorities, resulting in poor service delivery, Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s 2019 report tabled in parliament this week reveals.

NYASHA CHINGONO

According to the report, some councils failed to account for thousands of residential stands, while councillors grabbed commercial and residential sands without paying for them.

Out of 59 issues reported by Chiri, 34 relate to governance, while 25 relate to revenue collection, service delivery and employment costs, among others.

Gweru

Chiri, reported that some Gweru councillors did not pay for the stands they acquired at concessionary rates with a condition to pay during their term of office.

Gweru also did not have supporting documents for the stands sold.

“I was not availed with supporting documents to show that the council has a record of all stands sold, their purchase price, the beneficiary, amounts paid to date and outstanding balance on each stand. During the current year, the listing provided to the audit showed that stands worth ZW$1 714 784 were sold, however the amount could not be traced to the financial statements,” Chiri said.

Despite the ministry of Local Government issuing a directive through circular number one of 2011, which prohibited the council from selling commercial and industrial stands at concessionary rates to councillors, Gweru sold stands at 40% discount to the councillors.

“Furthermore, some councillors did not fill in stop order forms or make any payment arrangements towards the purchase price of the stands allocated to them. Some councillors paid varying amounts while others did not pay anything by the expiry of their terms.”

Masvingo

Masvingo failed to meet the water demands of the city, producing only 30 megalitres, against a daily target of 48 megalitres. Chiri reports that raw sewer was flowing into water sources, unchecked, exposing thousands of residents to water borne diseases.

The audit revealed that two clerks used a system loophole to manipulate daily receipts in the receipting menu. As a result, the council lost ZW$78 000 to fraud.

Masvingo also failed to maintain a comprehensive fuel usage record. The register did not show the name of the beneficiary, thereby increasing the risk of fuel misappropriation.

The council could not account for vehicles, with administration failing to register some of the vehicles in the asset register. Chiri raised concern over asset misappropriation.

Bindura

Bindura paid US$90 850 to Pelgin Consulting Services for a front-end loader in December 2018, but it had not been delivered at the time of the audit. The municipality also billed 218 accounts with no valid names, but had a balance of ZW$425 890.

“Unknown accounts may be used to commit and conceal fraudulent transactions,” Chiri noted.

Mutare

Mutare chose to keep collected cash in its coffers despite government orders to banks, while the council also failed to account for ZW$1.1 million, written off as part of a discount promotion.

On inquiry, Chiri noted that the difference was attributed to cash advanced to certain employees.

“However, there was no documentation attached as evidence of the authorisation of the transaction,” she said.

The audit also revealed that “council in 2012 paid a supplier US$330 000 for the supply of water pipes which were yet to be delivered at the time of audit in December 2020.”

Other local authorities

Some councils continued to operate without key policy documents, running payrolls without due approval, while others were operating budgets without the approval of the relevant minister of Local Government.

“The audit findings warrant the attention of management and those charged with governance.

“The audit revealed that most weaknesses related to governance and service delivery issues. There is need for continuous improvement in accountability and transparency aspects in Local Authorities,” Chiri said in her recommendations.

A number of local authorities, including Bulawayo City Council, Harare City Council and Kadoma City Council, had not submitted their accounts for auditing as at 16 January 2021.

 

 

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