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Gweru city council loses US$10m in dodgy deals

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GWERU City Council lost more than US$10 million in land deals that were done unprocedurally over the past decade with serious irregularities. The revelations come at a time the local authority, which is struggling to provide adequate services to residents due to financial constraints.

STEPHEN CHADENGA

A 2019 forensic audit report by the government revealed that for more than 10 years, council has been disposing of land without following due process. The Midlands provincial capital is yet to fully automate operations in its key departments and is unable to account for vast tracts of land.

From 2009 to 2019, Gweru disposed of residential, commercial, institutional and industrial stands with an estimated value of US$21 million, but earned half of that money because of dodgy deals.

“The expected value of all the stands disposed during the period from 2009 to date of audit (2019) was over US$21 889 823,” the report says.

“To date the city council had realised over US$11 811 848 for the stands disposed and had an outstanding land said balance of around $10 077 974 due and payable by the beneficiaries.. The use of a manual record system, which was not in order and the Promun system was not reliable as stands sold on cash basis were not captured in
the system.”

The audit conducted from March to May 2019 by a team of Local Government chief internal auditor Angel Nyoni and five other members showed that, during the period, council created over 7 206 stands for disposal with a portion of the land sales not accounted for.

The review established that 7 048 stands were received for disposal by council with a difference of 158 stands remaining unexplained.

Stands were created through unprocedural allocation on open spaces, recreational sites and golf courses, among other undesignated places.

“Fifteen commercial stands were created on the Gymkhana (Gweru sports ground) recreational site without following change of reservation procedures depriving residents of recreational facilities,” the report says.

According to the audit, the stands were title surveyed without approved layout plans. An example cited is the allocation of three stands, numbered 9 290 to 9 292, measuring 2 500 square metres, 5 000 and 4 000 square metres respectively, which were unprocedurally created on an open space without change of reservation approval.

The unprocedural allocations also occurred at heavy industrial sites such as Zambezi and Halifax while some stands were parcelled out unlawfully along Bulawayo Road servitude near the flyover.

The dossier also reveals that five institutional stands (9110, 9108, 9109, 9241 and 9108E) were unprocedurally developed on an open space with an unapproved layout plan.

“Mr Oniastias Mabgwe purchased an institutional stand (9108E) measuring 1 200 square metres in Mambo as per advert of 31 July-August 2009 for $2 400,” the document says.

“This institutional stand was not categorised with the agreement of sale indicating that the stand was a church stand. The purchaser is now disputing that he applied for a clinic stand and not a church one.”

The comprehensive investigation also pointed to conflict of interest among council employees when they were contracted by land developers in sewerage, water reticulation system and building plan approvals.

One notable example was an engineer, T Kunaka, who was allegedly contracted by Tinshel Properties to do sewerage and engineering designs for Vlei D stands at a cost of US$4 700 in 2015.

“He (Kunaka) did designs and implementation of water and sewer for subdivision of GSH 34B at a total contract price of US$13 540 on 8 October 2013,” the report reads.

There are also numerous other examples of workers’ irregular dealings with land developers as well as unusual disposal of land.

Mayor Josiah Makombe told The NewsHawks that the Local Government ministry submitted the report to council this year and that disciplinary action has since been instituted against officials implicated in the audit.

He said although the report mainly touched on the period presided over by his predecessors, his
administration will leave no “stone unturned in bringing the culprits to book.

“We have since suspended employees implicated in the audit to institute disciplinary measures against them,” he said.

Asked to comment on allegations the local authority was not availing the report to residents, the city boss said council had nothing to hide and members of the public interested in the document should approach the council offices.

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