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Gweru councillors in stands, tender storm

by Staff reporter
31 Mar 2020 at 07:55hrs | Views
Gweru councillors allegedly allocated themselves residential and commercial stands and influenced the awarding of lucrative contracts prejudicing the local authority of much money, according to a report.

The councillors, the dossier added, viewed management as a hindrance to their quest to amass wealth and rewarding their political cronies with land.

According to the Gweru City Council (GCC) investigation team report presented to councillors and management before the Minister of Local Government and Public Works July Moyo at the Town House last week by chairperson Mr Hamandishe Chinyengetere, the MDC Alliance councillors led by Clr Josiah Makombe gave themselves commercial and industrial stands.

"Councilors viewed management as a hindrance to their ambitious plans which included but not limited to acquisition of residential stands to the extent of even allocating same in social amenities areas such as golf courses and city parks, rewarding themselves with commercial and industrial stands," said Mr Chinyengetere.

The report doesn't state stand numbers councilors grabbed and where they are. It accuses the councillors of rewarding their political connections with large tracts of land.
"Rewarding their political benefactors with large tracts of land to develop, for example 20 000 square metres to Aaron Chinhara of Glow Petroleum. Ensuring that key council employees such as those in the Procurement Management Unit and Finance Department influenced the awarding of lucrative contracts," said Mr Chinyengetere.

He said the councilors in their ambitious plans to allegedly enrich themselves ensured that they had access to council resources and influenced decision making processes.

"For example, they influenced a decision against the formation of a joint venture project with the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe for the development of Mkoba 21 residential stands, CBD expansion and the construction of Gweru student accommodation. Their major goal was to remove the director Engineering Services which was resisted by the town clerk (Ms Elizabeth Gwatipedza) through the request to carry out an independent investigation into allegations against him before taking disciplinary action," said Mr Chinyengetere.

He told the meeting that in a bid for councilors to achieve their objective, they initially gave management 90 days to improve service delivery. However, he said, the demand did not have specific deliverables and resource support.

"After receiving a report back on service delivery improvement by management on May 22 last year, the councilors declared it unacceptable and they demanded its interrogation through a special committee of inquiry. The committee composition, however did not comply with the provisions of the Urban  Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) section 100 (5) which requires the inclusion of the town clerk in every committee of council," said Mr Chinyengetere.

He said councilors instituted a Committee of Inquiry (COI) into service delivery after they had been availed a Provincial Development Committee (PDC) report on service delivery improvements for the local authority.

"The councillors decided to ignore the report as the same revealed their weaknesses and incompetence but gave them room or reason to fire the Director of Engineering Services. This COI seemed to have been intended to counter the PDC and to form basis for the dismissal of management. The motive was divorced from improving service delivery which could have been achieved through the implementation of the PDC report," said Mr Chinyengetere.

He said the acting town clerk Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe was part to the crafting of the terms of reference of the COI. Furthermore, the task of the committee was not compliant with the Urban Councils Act in that it was not specific but a general inquiry which under normal circumstances is carried out by various committees of council.

"After the completion of the inquiry, heads of departments, whose mandates were subject of the inquiry were not given the opportunity to respond to the various issues that were raised in the report before findings were adopted by council. Councilors and other members of the COI lacked independence and objectivity in that they appointed, interviewed, investigated, reported to themselves and adopted their own report, then sought to implement the recommendations themselves without independent verification. This was not consistent with best practices on corporate governance," he said.

Mr Chinyengetere said the COI report should be deemed null and void.

"Consequently council should rescind the resolution adopting the COI report. GCC should implement the PDC report which was more independent and objective in its approach having been done by a wide and credible cross section of experts. The mayor should be held accountable for violating the provisions of Section 100 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29: 19)," he recommended.

Mr Chinyengetere headed a seven-member team that was appointed by Government following the suspension of Ms Gwatipedza by the MDC Alliance-led council on October 14 last year. Terms of reference included establishing the relationship between council and management, including corporate governance issues, establish the state of affairs in the department of Engineering Services before and during the tenure of the current director, establish the relationship between councilors and land developers.

Source - chroncile