A Ministry of Local Government audit that was leaked to Harare News on 4 November revealed a massive abuse of ratepayers’ money by council executives.
It was the continuation of a long tradition of council bosses ripping off the city whilst completely failing to achieve on their service delivery mandate. Also notable is that at the time of the leak, thousands of low grade council workers had gone without pay for up to seven months.
The Mayor was quick to suspend acting Town Clerk Josephine Ncube – a Zanu PF member who took over from the now disgraced Tendai Mahachi in 2015 after the first salary scandal slowly ended. Salaries were capped at $9,000 even before Mahachi left office. Nobody seemed to notice this inconvenient directive from the ministry in charge. Mahachi looted till his last day in office, and Ncube has been shoring herself up too, whilst also acting as the conduit via which the ruling party can loot the city of its money and land.
True to form, Minister Saviour Kasukuwere quickly reinstated her, and has been quoted in The Herald as being surprised by the audit findings, even though the document bears a dated stamp from his ministry indicating that they were available to him for four months prior to the leak.
Councillors were at the time divided on whether or not to sack all the recipients of bloated pay checks. Whilst the audit exposed the top brass, dozens of mid-line managers are also being overpaid, and some councillors feared that sacking them all would cripple service delivery. So far, no heads have rolled at all.
Residents were angered, and a small demo was staged at Town House. Just as the organisers were about to hand over a petition to the Mayor, riot police stepped in and arrested them.
The unpaid council workers have been very quiet on the matter. Someone with links to councillors and staff at Town House suggested that every council employee is using their position to get by, salary or otherwise. “They each have a means of making money, maybe bribes for favours, or even just Christmas box from residents, so they value their jobs, pay or no pay,” he said.
On 5 December, Kasukuwere presented the audit to a full council meeting, and rapped the councillors and the mayor for the situation.
“We have said that we need 30% to be spent on employment costs while 70% must come back to capital costs and development of our town. However, it appears that the Harare City Council has not been complying. Employment costs continue to grow way beyond our expectations…Mayor, what is glaring is your council’s inability to keep check of what was happening. You are the custodians of the City who must look after the interests of ratepayers…Salaries of top officials must be known, it must be clear what they are getting,” said Kasukuwere.
The Mayor would later tell Harare News they were not privy to the salaries of the executives.
“They [council workers] run the payroll without us. The record of executive defiance on [salaries] disclosure is well known,” said Manyenyeni.
What is clear is that the bloated salary bill that is crippling service delivery is concentrated on the top tiers at Town House. The Mayor told Harare News last month that, “Almost every job at council could be done by someone equally competent for a half, or even a third of the cost. It’s not a popular conversation though, but one that must be had.”
Given the massive salaries and exorbitant benefits going to the unquestionably bad and often corrupt managers that are spending our rates, it is a conversation that must happen soon.
See our graphic showing the extent of the salary abuses here.