Since its swearing-in nearly two years ago council has been holding strategic planning workshops that are aimed at equipping councillors with the requisite knowledge of council procedures.
However, some residents have alleged that councillors are now abusing the workshops for the monetary benefits that are involved. The strategic workshops are usually organised for single committees and are usually held in out-of-town hotels in Kadoma, Kariba and Nyanga.
Sharon Magodyo, the community coordinator for the Harare Residents Trust (HRT), said that residents have not experienced any change in the supply of services by city council despite the number of workshops held by councillors. “As the HRT we see this as an abuse of funds because Councillors award themselves with transport and accommodation allowances for the workshops and at the end they fail to implement their resolutions. There is a need for strategies to make sure that what is put on paper tallies with what is on the ground,” said Magodyo.
Council has a total of seven committees, and each one of them has reportedly gone for an average of three workshops. This means that council has held about 21 workshops. According to research by Harare News, the workshops are attended by about 20 people each time, including councillors and council workers.
Kadoma Ranche Hotel, one of the popular destinations for the workshops, charges $150 for bed and breakfast and $22 for lunch and dinner per person. Council workshops are usually held from Friday to Sunday which means each individual will consume $344, which will translate to a bill of $6,880 for accommodation and food for each workshop held at the hotel.
Using this calculation, it means that council has used more than $144,480 for the 21 workshops excluding transport and daily allowances. Other common venues for council workshops are Troutbeck Inn (Nyanga) and Carribea Bay Hotel (Kariba) whose charges are even higher than Kadoma Ranche Hotel.
One councillor in the Business Committee – who spoke to Harare News on condition of anonymity – said that the Human Resources Committee regularly hold strategic planning workshops while other committees only go for special workshops. “I think so far the Human Resources Committee have attended more than seven workshops while the other committees have gone for an average of three. We used to get $50 allowances per day but the HR committee recently pushed for an increase of allowances to $150 per day,” said the councillor.
However, Councillor Wellington Chikombo (Ward 28), chairman of the HR Committee, refuted claims that councillors were now abusing the workshops, saying that the workshops were critical in equipping elected officials with council procedures. “Most of the workshops are not burdening the residents. Remember we were elected by the people and we are fully representing the fundamental rights of the residents who put us into office. We cannot come here to start or embark on extravagance,” explained Chikombo. He said that it is unfortunate that people claim that councillors are squandering council funds through strategic planning workshops. “It is important to make sure that councillors are taken through induction and are imparted with knowledge, so that they are in a position to execute their mandate in a fair manner.”
However, Chikombo’s assertion that most of council’s workshops are held at no cost to council was shot down by a senior council worker at Townhouse, who commented on condition of anonymity due to the “sensitivity of the matter.” “Why are they trying to mislead you like that? All council workshops are council’s business and they cannot be funded by a donor. But the best person to talk to on that matter is the Mayor because he is the one who has been talking about the costs of the workshops,” said the council source.
Efforts to get a comment from the City’s Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi on the actual costs of the workshops were fruitless as he was said to be of the strong belief that Harare News was trying to cause a fight among the councillors and hence he was not prepared to respond. Contacted for a comment, Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said that he could not respond in time for publication. “Sounds tight. The management team takes forever to respond.”
Photo: The luxurious Troutbeck Inn, Nyanga, is frequented by City Council for their workshops. (Jules Parsons)