LOCAL Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, last week fired Gweru mayor, Hamutendi Kombayi, for gross misconduct and abuse of public office.
The minister wielded the axe on the mayor following recommendations made by a tribunal appointed to investigate the Gweru mayor’s alleged misconduct.
Media reports indicate that Kombayi’s charges included authorising a payment of US$1 875 towards opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s stay at Antelope Park and refusing to surrender his mayoral vehicle to council after he was suspended.
The dismissal of the Gweru mayor comes at a time when the auditor general last month released a damning audit report exposing gross maladministration and shocking abuse of public funds by top Harare City Council managers.
The report revealed that between 2013 and 2016 the then town clerk, Tendai Mahachi and now acting town clerk Josephine Ncube, along with three other city council directors, pampered themselves with illegal allowances and benefits at a time when the city is failing to meet its salary and service delivery obligations.
The audit revealed that five managers were collectively paid US$343 900 as holiday allowances in 2015 yet there was no proof that they ever went on holiday. In another incident, the managers were paid inflated performance bonuses amounting to US$607 250 without council approval. According to the audit report, Mahachi received US$135 100 while Ncube got US$122 000 and human director Cainos Chingombe was paid US$112 000. Health director Prosper Chonzi and director of works Phillip Pfukwa received US$95 000 and US$21 450 respectively. Former water director, Christopher Zvobgo and Tendai Kwenda, then acting as finance director, pocketed US$80 000 and US$40 800 respectively.
In July 2015, the city council managers received a combined US$173 880 in what they termed “on call” allowances which was unbudgeted for.
Auditors also discovered that at least 40 city managers were also paid unbudgeted for school fees allowances amounting to US$556 330.
They also noted a discrepancy in salary arrears between top management and the general staff.
The city was in five months’ salary arrears for the general staff as at December 2016 while management salaries were only two months in arrears.
It is crystal clear from the audit report that Harare City Council managers constitute the nerve centre of gross maladministration and wanton abuse of public funds at Town House.
In the past, successive Harare City Council mayors have accused overbearing ministers of the parent Ministry of Local Government of cronyism and protecting corrupt, but politically connected managers, every time the city fathers attempted to fire them.
In our view, it will be a travesty of good corporate governance for the Minister of Local Government to ignore these serious allegations being levelled against the city’s managers in the audit report.
The Harare City Council and the Ministry of Local Government should take urgent steps to discipline or fire all managers implicated in the audit report with a view to deal with corruption at Town House once and for all.