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'To hell with your fire tenders,' councils tell July Moyo

by Staff reporter
26 Jun 2022 at 05:40hrs | Views
Local authorities in the province have rejected the directive from central government where each council has been ordered to pay for a fire tender to a certain supplier using devolution funds at a very inflated price.

Masvingo City Mayor who is also a lawyer, councilor Collen Maboke said the directive by the central government is unconstitutional since the funds are from the devolution funds where they have to consult residents on what they should be used.

"The directive is unconstitutional, devolution funds are public funds and we have to consult residents before we do anything, so they cannot just tell us what to buy before we consult the residents," said Maboke.

He went on to say a fire tender was not a priority for Masvingo City since they recently got one saying priority should be towards refuse compactors.

"Apart from it being unconstitutional, a fire tender is not our priority as a city council. We have refuse collection challenges and a refuse compactor is a better purchase option. We recently got a fire fighter, so we cannot buy another one. Our residents are worried about refuse collection and they would understand us even if we bought a compactor without talking to them," added Maboke.

He however said they were yet to sit and deliberate on the matter as council and was sure his colleagues shared his views.

Zaka Rural District Council (RDC) chairperson Cornelius Mapuranga said Zaka District had more pressing issues than a fire tender.

"We cannot purchase a fire tender as it stands because we may never use it or it may take time to use it here in Zaka. What we need here is road construction equipment like graders, our roads are damaged and we are failing to maintain them because we don't have the equipment," said Mapuranga.

He went on to say as a district they suffered heavy losses in cattle and could be affected in the next faming season therefore there was need to capacitate the District Development Fund (DDF) so that it helps the local people.

"We lost a number of cattle in the district which poses a challenge in the next farming season. So the central government should at least equip DDF so that they can help the communities," he added.

Chiredzi Town Council Acting Town Secretary Engineer Wesley Kauma said the local authority recently purchased a fire tender which is awaiting shipment and would want to use the funds for other needs.

"We are currently waiting for RBZ to release funds for shipment of our fire tender which we have already purchased outside and we would request to use the funds for other things like graders since we have a shortage in road equipment," said Eng Kauma.

Mwenezi RDC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Albert Chivanga said he cannot question a directive from above but if allowed to choose they would not choose a fire tender but would go for other urgent needs.

"I cannot comment on a decision made by my principals. However, if we are allowed to choose, I wouldn't go for a fire tender but something more urgent like road equipment which we are in dire need of," said Chivanga.

Masvingo Residents and Rate Payers Alliance spokesperson Godfrey Mtimba echoed Maboke's sentiments saying the directive defeats the idea of devolution and that their organization will not let council buy the fire tender as it was not a priority for now.

"That directive is centralization instead of devolution, it's unconstitutional and in the meantime Masvingo City has fire equipment and cannot buy another one while there are other areas that need attention," said Mtimba.

However, Gutu and Chivi RDC CEOs Alexander Mutembwa and Tariro Matavire said since it was a constitutional requirement they would buy the equipment.

Chiredzi RDC CEO Ailes Baloyi said the idea is a noble one though if given a choice to choose, they would prefer finishing other projects to fire tenders.

"It's a noble cause to have a fire tender as we encounter some fire incidences. However, given a chance to choose, we would like to finish some projects we have already started," said Baloyi.

The fire tender issue torched a storm after the Ministry of local government wrote a letter to city, town and rural district councils where the ministry indicated that it was procuring fire tenders from Belarus on behalf of all local authorities with the money being deducted from their devolution fund allocations over a period of 12 months.

"The funds to procure the equipment will be deducted from the 2022 Devolution allocations and will be done over a period of 12 months starting March 2022. The cost of each fire tender is US$ 464 296.

"It is therefore advisable for local authorities to reprioritize the Devolution funds to accommodate the cost of the fire tenders." read part of the letter from the ministry.

The principle of devolution stipulates that funds be released from central to lower tiers of government with beneficiaries deciding on areas of key priority to use the funds on but that has turned to be a nightmare and the opposite as central government and council management have taken the onus on them to determine where to use the disbursed funds on.

The other challenge has been the late disbursement of the funds derailing progress on projects undertaken.

Source - TellZim News