Harare residents have endured persistent poor service delivery as evidenced by heavily potholed road infrastructure, inadequate potable water supply, irregular and erratic refuse collection and frequent sewer pipes bursts. Although there has been a public outcry and anger over poor service delivery by successive councils, the city fathers seem to turn a blind eye and prioritise fattening their pockets.
The city fathers are abusing ratepayers’ money by awarding themselves hefty allowances at a time Harare needs revamping.
Colossal corruption, poor revenue collection, diversion of funds and maladministration within council is costing the city millions of dollars in potential revenue which could be directed towards improving service delivery.
It is worrying that workshops have become a cash cow for council’s top brass at the expense of service delivery.
Reports indicate that the city’s bigwigs recently blew a whopping $1,2 million on hotel expenses, travelling and out-of-pocket allowances in a space of three months.
The outings violate the recent out-of-town trips ban by Government. But the shenanigans at HCC date way back and it is high time Government intervenes to end the crisis that has sacrificed service delivery.
It is worthwhile to show how successive councils were sleeping on the job in the last decade.
In 2010, a Chinese company, China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CMEC) signed a US$144 million loan agreement with HCC for the refurbishment of water and sewage treatment plants.
As part of the terms of the deal, HCC was to service Prince Edward and Morton Jaffray water treatment plants as well as renovate Crowborough and Firle sewage treatment plants. However, a consulting engineer by the name Peter Morris, who was hired by Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund administered by the African Development Bank’s Urgent Water Supply and Sewerage Rehabilitation Project to assess the loan deal, unearthed corrupt activities.
In his findings, it turned out that council officials pocketed more than US$100 million by inflating prices of the equipment which was required to refurbish the water and sewer plants.
Morris noted that prices of equipment charged by CMEC were five times more than those prevailing on the market.
To date, a health crisis is looming in several high density suburbs in Harare, where raw effluent is flowing because of burst sewer pipes which are left unattended. On the other hand, toxicity in Lake Chivero is at its peak, with HCC spending US$3 million monthly on water treatment chemicals. The toxins pose cancer risks to residents. This was avoidable if council officials put the loan money to good use.
In 2017, an independent commission noted that much of the revenue collected by HCC was going towards salaries at the expense of service delivery. The independent commission unearthed gross irregularities on the salary scale at the HCC compared to other sectors.
Government on its part is working tirelessly to address the problem plaguing the local authority. To this end, President Mnangagwa, during his State visit to China in April 2018, secured funding amounting US$680 million for the construction of Kunzvi-Musami Dam and for its commissioning into Harare’s water supply system. It is worrying and painful because the construction of the dam has been delayed by unnecessary bureaucracy by officials responsible for the handling of pertinent papers for a project which was supposed to have started in the 1990s.
Many will agree that the construction of the dam is the answer to the city’s water problems. In total, President Mnangagwa secured US$940 million from China, meant to fix Harare’s water and sewer system.
Now Harare is watching whether HCC, will for once, step up its game and improve service delivery for the benefit of ratepayers.