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Local authorities slammed for poor financial management

A LOCAL governance expert, Vincent Chakunda last week castigated local authorities for having weak financial management systems which he said aided leakages thereby compromising service delivery.

Speaking in Gweru at a public finance management workshop organised by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), Chakunda said local authorities lacked good corporate governance and this largely contributed to ratepayers’ resistance to settle their bills.

“We have shambolic accounting systems in most local authorities,” Chakunda said.

“There are some local authorities which operate with multiple bank accounts, some with even 14 such (bank) accounts and this largely contributes to revenue
leakages. There is need for local authorities to put order into their financial systems.”

Chakunda said it was disheartening that most local authorities do not have updated financial statements adding that this eroded confidence in ratepayers.

He said the internal audit systems at councils were weak because the internal auditors were answerable to those that appoint them.

“In most cases you will realise that local authorities only update their financial statements and accounts when they want to seek borrowing powers from
government,” he said.

“You wonder how a big institution with a director of finance and a lot of accountants under him/her fails to come up with updated financial statements at
the end of each month. Secrecy on how funds are used also contributes to a court of public opinion where ratepayers develop resistance in settling their
bills.”

Addressing the same meeting, a member of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Brian Dube said the public finance
management Act should be aligned to ensure transparency and accountability in financial matters by public officials.

Dube, also Gweru Urban MP, said the current scenario was such that the Act did not make it obligatory for officials to explain to the public on the use of
public funds.

“There is need to align the Act (to the Constitution) and take away unnecessary powers from officials because they end up misusing public funds,” Dube said.

“There is need to adopt the South African system where officials have to explain how public finances have been used for national development. This makes the
ministers answerable on public funds use hence the system becomes clear on how the taxpayer’s money has been utilised,” he said.

Zimcodd programmes manager John Maketo said the organisation was moving around the country meeting stakeholders to make sure that the input of citizens on strengthening the Public Finance Management Act was captured.

Source :

NewsDay

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