City bigwigs blow cash on banned trips

Freeman Razemba and Victor Maphosa
Harare City Council has held two workshops at Kadoma Ranch Motel in the past three weeks, blowing thousands of ratepayers money at the expense of service delivery. The jaunts are in defiance of a Government ban on out-of-town trips. Council last month held two training workshops at the Kadoma hotel where each of the attendees pocketed between $5 100 and $25 000 in allowances for the three days.

For each workshop, council paid allowances to at least 60 people of varying ranks.

The money was released at a time when the least-paid worker (Grade 16) was getting a basic monthly salary of $270 a month.

This also comes at a time when the mayoral mansion, with all the necessary facilities to host such workshops locally, is slowly turning into a white elephant.

In September, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing banned the holding of council workshops and seminars outside their jurisdictions to minimise the abuse of funds.

According to Circular No. 12 of 2019, such trips can only be held with the approval of the permanent secretary.

The circular reads: “The Honourable (minister) has placed a restriction on the holding of workshops, seminars, training and similar events outside of the council jurisdiction in the case of urban councils and outside the administrative district in the case of rural district councils unless authority to hold a function at an alternative venue has been sanctioned by the permanent secretary.

“Any council wishing to hold a function outside the limits given should make submission to the permanent secretary in writing giving justifications for same.”

However, The Herald established that Harare City Council did not apply to the ministry to conduct the two Kadoma workshops.

In a statement last week, The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing’s acting permanent secretary Colonel Joseph Mhakayakora (Rtd) confirmed that no approval was sought by council.

He said council was defying the directive.

“The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing has not been informed of City of Harare’s intention to hold a workshop in Kadoma.

“The normal procedure is that they seek approval from the honourable minister in line with the local authorities Circular No. 12 0f 2019.

“In this instance no approval was sought,” he said.

The Finance and Development Committee workshop ran between October 17 and 20.

Another workshop was also held at the same venue between October 24 and 27.

A number of councillors and other senior officials enjoyed the priviledge of attending both workshops and pocketing thousands of dollars.

However, council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme had this to say:

“The workshops were never banned. You cannot speak on behalf of the minister. You must not put words into the minister’s mouth.”

Mr Chideme was among the first batch of 57 council officials and five presenters selected to attend the first meeting.

The list included Town Clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango, Mayor Herbert Gomba, Deputy Mayor Enock Mupamawonde, 11 other councillors, eight heads of departments, 29 managers and supervisors, five presenters, Mayor’s driver, Town Clerk’s driver, Mayor’s Aide and the staff bus driver.

Investigations by The Herald show that drivers and aides, who are the lowest ranking attendants on the list were paid $5 100 while the management got between $10 000 and $25 000.

The allowances were paid directly into the bank accounts of the 57 officials and five presenters despite the fact that all the hotel bills and transport expenses had been paid by council.

Workshops and seminars have now become a cash cow for council top brass at a time the low ranking ones were wallowing in poverty, hoping to, at least, get their meagre salaries in time.

Harare City Council is among the local authorities accused of abusing ratepayers’ funds after it recently spent a whopping $1,2 million on hotel expenses, travelling and out-of-pocket allowances in a space of three months.

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