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'Councils have 40-year infrastructure gap'

by Staff reporter
24 Apr 2018 at 07:05hrs | Views
LOCAL authorities have an infrastructure development gap of 40 years and require quick interventions to stimulate growth and improved service delivery, the Urban Councils' Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ), has said.

The country is geared for increased investments under the new administration, with a number of deals running into billions of dollars having already been signed and are in early stages of implementation. In view of this, local authorities have expressed readiness to participate in key projects such as road, water and sewer infrastructure rehabilitation.

Speaking during a panel of discussion at the Zimbabwe Urban Infrastructure Investment Summit held in Bulawayo yesterday, UCAZ president and Harare Mayor, Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni, said: "We (local authorities) have got like a 30 to 40 year infrastructure gap. We have that gap and the need has grown, all our cities have outlived their design capacities in terms of almost every aspect of infrastructure".

According to Clr Manyenyeni, infrastructure gap entails lack of investment in civil works involving the use of high-rise building cranes.

"We are talking of cities that have not seen high-rise building cranes going up for the last 30 years and that illustrates the backlog that I am talking about.

"We have capacity issues across the board within local Government and also within the country. We will talk about quantity surveyors, architects and engineers who have never had to do any sizeable transactions or construction in the last 30 years," he said.

Clr Manyenyeni said local authorities have not been part of the much touted mega deals the country has clinched in recent months.

"We have not been part of the mega deals that have been spoken about. The country has had mega deals and none of them have been directly in a work relationship with councils.

"We think we are left out and even on more recent programmes like Command Housing and so there has been sort of a gap between central and local governments. We (central and local government) need to be moving together," he said.

Of late, the Government has expressed concern over some local authorities, mainly run by opposition MDC councils, that have been diverting funds disbursed to them for infrastructure rehabilitation programmes. For example, in January this year, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Dr Joram Gumbo, expressed concern over urban and rural councils that were diverting funds disbursed by the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) for road rehabilitation and maintenance programmes.

The local authorities have been accused of channelling Zinara resources towards paying off debts as well as funding salaries and allowances for staff.

Rural and urban councils, along with the District Development and the Department of Roads, receive funds from Zinara on a quarterly basis for the rehabilitation and maintenance of road networks under their jurisdiction.

On the ease of doing business within local authorities, Clr Manyenyeni said the gestation period was way too long and cannot be compared with the private sector. The ease of doing business within the local authority was being derailed by negative factors such as bureaucracy and inertia.

"I think we (local authorities) have got an obligation to match the mantra, "Zimbabwe is open for business" and we must also match the Government noise around infrastructure and the test has grown to emergency scenarios.

"Our pipes and roads are in a sorry state and thus we need to strengthen our capacities at local levels through devolution," he said.

Source - chronicle

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