Residents have petitioned the Mayor to investigate the use of funds for a Harare City Football Club trip to Madagascar for a CAF Confederation Cup preliminary round tournament last month.
Harare City Football Club is a council-owned team that plays in the country’s premier soccer league. The club is funded by ratepayers, and concerns have been raised over the years by stakeholders who believe that the team’s over $1 million annual budget is a “gross” misuse of funds given that the city is failing to provide adequate service delivery.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) delivered a petition to the Mayor on 17 February stating that residents were concerned that Harare City FC was sending an over-staffed delegation of 43 people to Madagascar. CHRA stated that total airfare for the delegation would cost $54,000 with the total cost of the trip being estimated to be around $150,000.
“[We are] gravely concerned that Harare City Football club is sending a delegation of 43 people instead of the normal 25 people, which will cost residents $54,000 in airfares alone at a time when the city is in dire need of money to fund service delivery,” reads the petition.
The petition beseeched the Mayor to issue a directive to the directors and coordinators of Harare City FC to cut their delegation from 43 people to 25 which would reduce the total cost of the trip by 42%. The residents also implored the Mayor to issue a travel policy with guidelines that ensure cost saving.
“We demand a consolidated audit of the club’s finances as we are made and bound to believe that this revelation [of the delegation] could be the tip of an iceberg… Harare city as a publicly funded institution must be in a position to account to us how they are using rate payers’ money,” reads the CHRA petition.
According to media reports, Harare City FC’s delegation to Madagascar consists of 18 players and 25 officials who include the deputy mayor, two councillors, team officials, a technical team, and media personnel.
Commenting on the issue, Tapiwa Mangwende (36) from Mabvuku said that council should prioritise its mandate of service delivery before channelling resources to social activities.
“It is sad that council wants to send such a huge delegation when service delivery is on its knees. It is not bad for council to sponsor sport, but it should not be done at the expense of service delivery,” said Mangwende.
Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni – who is also the patron of Harare City FC – acknowledged receipt of the petition and said that the petitioners were justified in protesting this application of council funds.
“It is rather late on this one [Madagascar trip]. The team has an annual budget which it runs under its management and any corrections should ideally be at the budget stage. Harare City FC is ratepayer-funded and it is part of council’s public relations programmes. Debate around this matter continues as there is a strongly held view that our allocation of funds for the team does not reflect our financial position,” said Mayor Manyenyeni. In a later response to CHRA dated 19 February, he added, “I commit the team’s management to a process of review in order to confirm the most acceptable travel arrangements for all future local and external soccer ties.”
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