Wednesday, 29 June 2016

COUNCILS ROT STAGGERING, SAYS KASUKUWERE

Government has unearthed gross maladministration by local authorities that include abuse of council funds by councillors, illegal water connections, and the awarding of multiple residential stands.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the rot was not confined to just MDC-T-run councils, but in some Zanu-PF dominated local authorities as well.

Minister Kasukuwere said this in the National Assembly on Tuesday while making his second reading speech of the Local Government Laws Amendment Bill that seeks to amend the Urban Councils Act and Rural District Council Act by providing disciplinary procedures of mayors and councillors through the appointment of an independent tribunal.

“As we speak, a number of shocking cases of maladministration and corruption have been uncovered by the ministry following reports from concerned and desperate members of the public and residents’ associations. A councillor, in connivance with council plumber, has bypassed his water meter and those of his cronies, thereby prejudicing his own council of revenue for a service rendered. A councillor used funds meant for a council medical aid society to pay for personal university tuition,” said Minister Kasukuwere.

He said some councillors awarded themselves more than 20 stands in a single term while others sold council land and pocketed the proceeds.

“A councillor who was unlawfully driving a council vehicle and had an accident and framed a driver for the offence. Several local authorities are also still operating without approved 2016 budgets in violation of the Public Finance Management Act. Many are up to four years behind in the audit cycle. Such acts defy the basic values and principles of public administration as espoused in the Constitution and cannot be left unchecked,” he said.

He said pending the finalisation of the new Local Government Act which was currently with the Attorney General’s office, there is need to align the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act to the provisions of the new Constitution.

“The current Local Government Act, as read with the Constitution, allows for the 45-day suspension of errant councillors, but are out of line with the spirit of the new Constitution when it comes to the conclusion of the disciplinary action. This has in essence created a free for all in local authorities,” he said.

“May I point out that this legislation will cover all 1 958 councillors in the 92 Rural District Councils. Currently, councillors across the political divide, including several from my own party; have cases pending hearings from this tribunal.”

Presenting the portfolio committee report of Local Government on the Bill, Mutasa South MP Cde Irene Zindi (Zanu-PF) said members of the public had expressed reservations on the powers of the Minister.

“Some members of the public were of the sentiments that the Bill confers too much power to the Minister, which is inconsistent with the provisions of section 278 of the Constitution. They argued that the Constitution does not give the Minister the powers to suspend or remove a Councillor, Chairperson or Mayor of a local authority,” said Cde Zindi while presenting the report.

Cde Zindi said it was felt that a parliamentary committee should be responsible for the appointment of the tribunal and it must be reflective of political divide and gender composition.

“It was proposed that the Minister must be a complainant and must report to the Tribunal the allegations levelled against chairperson, councillor and mayor in matters involving misconduct, corruption and abuse of power,” she said.

Cde Zindi said some participants proposed that the remuneration of members of the tribunal must be determined by Parliament and that it must be published in the Government Gazette.

“It was pointed out that there was no justification for a council that is being investigated to pay for the expenses of a tribunal which has been appointed by the Minister. The funds should go towards service delivery and the remuneration of the tribunal be paid by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing,” she said. herald

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