Chombo probes Zanu PF council

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Ignatious Chombo

LOCAL government minister Ignatius Chombo last week dispatched a probe team to Gwanda to investigate the municipality following revelations that the town clerk was earning $18 000 a month.

ALBERT NCUBE
OWN CORRESPONDENT

Chombo last month told the National Assembly that he would be sending his team to Gwanda after Kambuzuma MP Willies Madzimure’s portfolio committee inquired on who set salaries for town clerks.

This comes hot on the heels of revelations that Gwanda’s outgoing town clerk Gilbert Mlilo’s salary was the second highest among local authorities’ chief executives at $18 945,81 per month.

Mlilo retires on Friday.

Chombo told the National Assembly that he was concerned by Mlilo’s salary as it was more than town clerks of bigger cities.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed that Mlilo’s basic pay was $6 766,37 but it was pumped up by numerous allowances, which include responsibility ($2 706,55) professional ($2 368,23), retention ($2 368,23), telephone ($1 014,96), cellphone allowance ($1 014,96) and housing and car benefits of $278,58.

Chombo said appropriate action would be taken if Mlilo’s high salary was found to be true.

“If it is found to be true, appropriate consequences will befall the mayor,” said Chombo.

The two-member probe team was in Gwanda on Monday and Tuesday last week as council prepared to host a farewell party for Mlilo on Friday.

Gwanda mayor Knowledge Ndlovu confirmed receiving the probe team, but would not be drawn into divulging contents of their deliberations.

“I can confirm that we had officials from the ministry (of Local Government),” was all Ndlovu was prepared to say.

However, reliable sources said some councillors were quizzed on how the local authority calculated Mlilo’s remuneration, but most professed ignorance as they only assumed office last year.

According to local government regulations, salaries for top managers should be approved by councillors, but this has not been the norm for years now with management reportedly pegging their own salaries.

“According to records, this has not been the practice for quite some time now and it’s illegal,” said the source.

The probe team was reported to have unearthed that Mlilo’s salary was being deposited in batches into three different banks for unexplained reasons.

The Gwanda municipality is also spending 75% of its total revenue on salaries with 25% going to service delivery.

According to local government regulations, salaries should only eat up 30% of revenue with 70% going towards service delivery.

The financial crisis bedevilling the Gwanda municipality has seen it being garnished by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

In a bid to evade the garnish order, council is now depositing its funds with an alternative bank.

It reportedly owes Zimra almost $1 million.

Council is also said to have acted illegally by approving its 2014 budget when previous accounts had not been audited.

Council accounts have not been audited since 2011.

Management was supposed to appraise the new councillors on procedure but allegedly did not do so.

Sources said this was viewed by the probe team as a deliberate ploy to ensure that operations remained opaque for illegal activities to continue thriving.

Sources said the probe team also hinted at suspending council’s top management.

“We were questioned on how we would feel if we woke up to find the top managers suspended,” said the source.

Mlilo leaves council at a time it owes Zinwa $5 million which has seen the town experiencing incessant water cuts as the authority seeks to force council to pay up.

Mlilo told his farewell party on Friday that he was not corrupt but had worked hard to develop Gwanda from a rural council to its current municipality status.

Mlilo also took a dig at the Southern Eye which first exposed his fat salary.

“I want to thank ZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation), Chronicle and Ilanga, New Ziana for a good working relationship, but this other paper has been tarnishing my image; we appreciate criticism but it should be constructive,” Mlilo said in apparent reference to Southern Eye.

Council workers have gone for three months without pay and considering the municipality’s current financial position; it is unlikely they would be paid soon.

The probe team’s report is set to be tabled in Parliament before punitive measures are taken.