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Councillors up in arms over $3, 9 million ward retention fund

by Staff reporter
06 Sep 2019 at 07:05hrs | Views
BULAWAYO councillors have threatened to call in the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission (Zacc) to investigate about $3,9 million ward retention fund that is said to be "unavailable."

The fund is made up of three percent of the rates and services paid by residents and is meant to develop the city's 29 wards.

Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube, was quoted in the latest council report saying the money for the scheme was unavailable.  He, however, said in an interview yesterday that while it was difficult to explain the position to councillors, management would strive to bring them up to speed with the status of the fund.

During a full council meeting on Wednesday, councillors sought clarity on the status of the ward retention fund. In apparent reference to Mr Dube, they said no one could declare that the funds were not available when the ward committees had not used the money.

Ward 27 Alderman Siboniso Khumalo said it was impossible to declare that the funds were unavailable.  

"Those are public funds. We might even call Zacc if it's necessary," said Ald Khumalo.

 "When residents make their payments they know that three percent is sent back to develop the ward. It is an incentive to encourage residents to pay. Residents may think that I misused the money. We might end up hating each other on this matter. Who is saying ward retention fund is unavailable? The money is there. Whoever is claiming the money is unavailable is lying."  

Deputy Mayor Councillor Tinashe Kambarami whose election to council was recently nullified by the High Court but has since appealed, had earlier sparked debate over the funds. Clr Kambarami together with Ward 4 Clr Silas Chigora recently caused chaos when they attempted to suspend the Town Clerk over corruption allegations.  Clr Kambarami said it did not make sense to say that the funds were unavailable.

"We need to understand why the ward retention funds are said to be unavailable. Like any organisation at its formation, there is a constitution that has to be followed with regards to the ward retention fund.  

"I think we need to abide by the constitution that says that when residents pay their rates three percent has to go back to the ward as ward retention fund. We need to ask management why the money has not been disbursed since 2017," said Clr Kambarami.

He said residents had many projects that required funding using the money and delays in releasing the funds was adversely affecting implementation of the projects. Ward 9 Clr Donaldson Mabuto said he was shocked to learn that they had withdrawn some of the money for his ward. Finance and Development committee member Ald Ernest Rafamoyo said they would see to it that ward retention fund issue is swiftly addressed for the benefit of residents.

"We are going to make it work, simple. If there is any mistake we will resolve it. We are a new broom. This committee does not deal with insults. We are not closing anything we want transparency. We are not afraid," said Ald Rafamoyo.

Mr Dube yesterday said the fund was intact but could not be distributed.

"Do you think we can release funds considering our financial position where we have serious cash flow challenges? Do you think it will make sense that we set aside funds for such projects at the moment? Is that feasible?" he asked. However, he said council management would ensure that all the councillors understand the position and stop bickering.

"They don't understand because this scheme is from a central revenue fund, we don't put the money aside. We credit wards with the amount expected to be allocated to a certain ward. But if there is a need for the money to be released it will be released from the central revenue fund. It's difficult to make everyone understand but we will make them understand," he said.

"They have got their concerns but we need to educate them. We need to put them to speed with the existing constitution. The constitution does not create a fund but created a scheme. We will explain to them to their understanding. It's difficult to explain to 29 individuals who have a different level of understanding."

Source - chronicle