Kasukuwere dribbles MDC-T dominated Harare City Council
LOCAL Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has finally had his way after the Harare City Council capitulated to an order compelling the cash-strapped municipality to have its books looked into by forensic auditors.
The development is seen preparing the ground for Kasukuwere to crack the whip on the local authority, as the last bastion of power for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T).
The audit was first mooted in 2014 at the height of a salary scandal whereby Town House management was exposed for earning hefty salaries and perks while presiding over chaotic service delivery.
It, however, did not materialise amid reports that the city fathers were digging in their heels for fear of playing into ZANU-PF’s hands.
Since the formation of the MDC-T in 1999, ZANU-PF has struggled to penetrate the capital.
Following the decision by the MDC-T to boycott all national polls citing an uneven electoral playing field, ZANU-PF has been given a free rein to recover some lost ground through by-elections.
Kasukuwere, who doubles up as ZANU-PF’s political commissar, has also been making use of his position as Local Government Minister, to capitalise on the MDC-T’s shortcomings in running local authorities under its dominion.
Where similar audits have been conducted at the behest of the Local Government Minister, they have opened cans of worms.
In Gweru, the mayor and nearly 20 councillors are currently on suspension on allegations of gross misconduct and mismanagement of council funds.
Despite their court victories, the Gweru city fathers have struggled to get reinstated.
Gweru is currently being run by a caretaker commission appointed by Kasukuwere.
In Mutare, the town clerk Obert Muzawazi had to resign from his position in a huff after an audit sanctioned by Kasukuwere unearthed rampant rot at the municipality.
Having succeeded in arm-twisting Harare city fathers to engage forensic auditors, Kasukuwere is seen capitalising on any finding that could point to sleaze at Town House to weaken the MDC-T hold on the municipality.
Last Friday, the city fathers approved the audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers at a full council meeting at the recommendation of council’s audit committee.
The audit, kicked off on Monday, with its main targets being the city’s business units, including those it operates in partnership with outsiders.
Companies that are under the audit spotlight include EasiPark, City Parking, Sunshine Meats, Mabvavazuva Village, Shawasha Business Complex, High Glen Textile Factory, Peal City, CC City and Sunshine Development (Private) Limited.
Some of them are no longer operating.
Ideally, these business units were meant to augment income from rates paid by residents and companies, but most of them have been bleeding due to mismanagement.
Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, confirmed the audit this week.
He said: “The directive came from the minister who I believe is looking for comfort and assurance that council is conducting its business at its best. It is being conducted by internationally acclaimed audit firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers, who won the tender”.
Kasukuwere had written to mayor, Bernard Manynyeni, on July 27, 2015 instructing him institute the audit.
Council, through acting town clerk, Josephine Ncube, then wrote to the auditor general, Mildred Chiri, three months later in September, asking her to engage a suitable auditor on behalf of council.
Acting on the matter, the auditor general then invited interested audit firms to submit bids for the audit, with Price Waterhouse Coopers emerging as the successful winner.
Council has since written back to Kasukuwere informing him of the latest development.
“Price Waterhouse Coopers firm of auditors have been appointed by the auditor general in terms of the Audit Office Act (Chapter 22:18) to carry out the forensic audit which will commence on 11th April 2016,” reads the correspondence in part.
Price Waterhouse Coopers would be paid US$160 748 for the audit, which will be completed in eight weeks.
According to the terms of reference set out by council, the auditor is supposed to examine the city’s governance, performance and operational issues as well as its organisational structures.
The auditor will also obtain and review all arrangements and contracts signed between each company and service providers or other parties to the business.
“For each arrangement, the auditor will review the procedures followed, including a review of whether all necessary board or council approvals were sought before the contracts/agreements were signed. This will help ascertain the relevance of each agreement or contract entered into in enhancing the value of the business,” minutes of the audit committee in our possession said.
The lucrative parking business has of late been under the spotlight for the wrong reasons, with an internal investigation conducted last year showing the city was losing thousands of dollars to its corrupt parking marshals.
Council had to terminate an arrangement with a South African partner after realising that it was not benefitting from the arrangement.
Harare services an estimated three million people, including those from metropolis such as Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa.
Service delivery has been compromised huge default rates by residents and companies, with several political bigwigs from the ruling ZANU-PF party having been implicated before for non-payment of rates.
The city has lost its financial self-sustainability status as it has resorted to borrowing to finance its day to day operations, including for salaries.
It has also reported huge budget deficits at the end of each financial year for a long time.
As evidence of this shortage of funds, council employees have gone for five months now without receiving their salaries, while the local authority has also failed to provide basic services such as refuse collection and regular supply of treated water into homes.
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