Saturday, 23 November 2019

EX CHIEF FIRE OFFICER HITS HARD TIMES


FORMER Bulawayo chief fire officer Mr Richard Peterson has reportedly hit hard times and has written to the local authority requesting an advance to his benefits to meet his ever-ballooning bills.

According to a council confidential report, Mr Peterson, who retired from the local authority in March this year, wrote to the local authority’s chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou requesting that council give him an extension to stay at a council house which he was occupying.

He further requested an advance of his pension to enable him to “survive”.  
“Due to circumstances beyond my control, I hereby request a further extension to remain in the house until 15 November. The current tenant occupying the house which I should be moving in has requested an extension to 15 November hence the above request.

“On a different note, I wrote to the director of human capital sometime in August 2019 requesting an advance payment of $7 500 so that I can meet my obligations. Among other obligations, City of Bulawayo bills, insurance policies, some of which have lapsed owing to non-payment, are five months in arrears.

“Until this day, I have not had any response or a simple acknowledgement of my request.

“My family is hungry and I am unable to provide for them. Please Zhou kindly assist, sengikhathele right now. I do not know whom to turn to,” reads part of the letter from Mr Peterson. 

In the ensuing debate it emerged that while council could grant the extension of the period the former chief fire officer can stay at the council property, the issue of the advance could only be handled by the Local Authorities Pension Fund.

“The issue of advance payment was handled within the policy framework of the management of pensions for council employees which was administered by the Local Authorities Pension Fund.

“Council could not act outside the parameters set by the LAPF with regard to the payout of pension benefit.

“The chamber secretary explained that a new chief fire officer was yet to be recruited and those acting were doing so on a rotational basis and could not move into the house.

“She further explained that when Mr Peterson vacates the house before the recruitment, her department would provide security for the house,” reads part of the report.

At the end of the deliberations councillors agreed that the former chief fire officer should be allowed to occupy the house until the end of the year or the recruitment of the next chief fire officer, whichever occurred first. 

Mr Peterson who joined the local authority at the height of economic challenges in 2008, retired after serving the local authority for 11 years and was at the forefront in bringing the Operation Florian project to the city, which has seen BCC’s fire department benefiting vehicles, equipment and materials valued at over US$2,5 million.

Operation Florian is a massive fire and humanitarian charity organisation based in the United Kingdom, which has seen the city’s fire and rescue operations rise to become the best in the country.  Sunday News

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