The Mutare City Council has retrenched nearly 250 workers this year in line with recommendations contained in a special audit conducted late last year by the Ministry of Local Government, which revealed that the local authority has a lot of redundant employees.
The council is now also expected to advertise the position of Town Clerk following the resignation of Obert Muzawazi, who was accused in the report of alleged corruption.
Mutare mayor councilor Tatenda Nhamarare told residents during a consultative meeting organised by the United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers’ Trust that the council is currently implementing the recommendations.
Nhamarare said they are at the moment streamlining the local authority in order to have a sustainable wage bill.
The council had at least 1,500 employees at the time the special audit was conducted in December last year. At least 75 percent of its revenue is being gobbled by salaries.
The mayor said the council did not renew the contracts of the affected workers in an attempt to reduce its huge wage bill.
“In terms of reducing our employment costs we have laid off all the 246 contract employees that had their contracts were terminated on the 31st of January. And we have a few remaining contract workers whose contracts will be terminated at the end of February. That is the first step that we have taken to cut costs.”
Nhamarare also said the council is currently looking for a Town Clerk and Chamber Secretary in line with the government recommendations.
He bemoaned mayors’ lack executive powers, which the city father noted has led to serious managerial challenges in most local authorities.
He said as a result mayors are being bypassed by managers when allocating land to the people, an issue that was highlighted in the audit report as promoting corruption.
“The councils are likely to lose lots of money and land through land sales behind the mayor’s back as they have no signing powers as compared to the CEOs and town clerks. This might happen without the mayor and councilors knowing anything and we are appealing to the government to have certain signing powers on important council issues to avoid blame in future as the mayor is usually the one to be the target for attack when these things happen.”
The mayor said current mayors need to have authority to approve any land sales together with senior council managers so as to minimize underhand deals in land sales.
The chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, Irene Zindi, who is also the Mutasa South Member of the House of Assembly, decried the government’s usually slow action on reports of maladministration on issues like maladministration and corruption.
She was reacting to concerns expressed by residents on delays in reporting alleged cases of corruption in the Mutare City Council.
Zindi said it was heartbreaking that some council officials were allegedly involved in corrupt activities.
“We are saying should the rest of the citizens suffer simply because there are people that awarded themselves hefty allowances and salaries at a time when service delivery is suffering because we fear the litigation that might be faced, but I think we just need to bite the bullet.”
Some of the axed top council officials are planning to take the city to court claiming that their contracts were unfairly terminated.
She expressed dismay over the slow pace of the government in addressing cases of corruption.
“The government which is the executive in this instance almost always turns to drag their feet to take corrective measures and they only come in to take corrective measures when so much harm would have been done, when it is too late, this is what has obtained with the city of Mutare; coming up with an audit after so many years.”
She urged residents to exercise their rights through engaging her committee on issues of service delivery and approach line ministries such the Ministry of Mines on issues of pollution in key water sources, relocations of villagers and lack of benefits in mineral resources.