MUTARE- City fathers have bemoaned political interference in municipality projects saying it has rendered councillors mere passengers in procurement processes of the local authority.
Speaking at an all stakeholders interface organised by the Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) to curb corruption and promote accountability in procurement processes of local authorities, councillors bemoaned that they are failing to execute their duties because of political interference.
TIZ is a non-profit, non-partisan, systems-oriented local chapter of the international movement against corruption, it is facilitating interface of local authority councillors and stakeholders to enhance transparency and accountability.
Currently, all Mutare’s nineteen wards are represented by Movement for Democratic Change councillors while the Minister of Local Authority, July Moyo is a ZANU PF politician, and wields veto powers over all local municipalities.
Deputy Mayor Councillor Kudakwashe Chisango said it was apparent that the executive management of the council does the bidding of a political entity as they do not recognise the authority of councillors.
Chisango said the council is faced with legacy problems emanating from unilateral decisions made by previous Ministers that are still affecting council operations now.
“City management does not recognise our authority in terms of programs that we place as a priority, for example, a road will only be prepared when an influential politician is coming into the city.
“As councillors, while we are answerable to residents but whatever we want to do we have to seek approval from the Minister or the same official has the power to veto such projects despite that residents and ratepayers will be demanding.
“There is a lot of challenges in terms of political interference in council business where there is a standing resolution from the council on how to proceed, sometimes these resolutions are struck off by the ministers.
He added, “We have legacy problems from directives from previous ministers who gave directives that have had far-reaching impacts, like the debt, write off, sometimes this even involves the transfer of ownership of council property without due procedure.”
Mayor Blessing Tandi said legal statutes place powers in the central government rendering local authorities as mere rubber stampers of ministerial directives, which are usually politically motivated.
Tandi said the statutes like the Urban Councils Act are too bureaucratic and grant sweeping powers to the Minister of Local Government on most municipality projects.
He applauded TIZ for setting up a platform for councillors to interface with stakeholders and exchange notes on best practices in procurement to curb corruption in local authorities.
“We have legal statutes like the Urban Council Act, the JV Act and the PP Act, these statutes are too bureaucratic and give sweeping powers to the Minister, their implementation means that as councillors we are mere rubber stampers.
“They are not doing any service to the local authority, they are actually a disservice to us as local authorities, going against the spirit of good governance, sadly this has led to conflict between management and councillors,” said Tandi.
He added, “We are encouraged by the work being done by TIZ in setting up platforms that enhance good governance in terms of procurement so that we can fight corruption in our local authorities.”
TIZ official Tracy Mutowekuviza said as an organization they are promoting good governance at local municipalities to curb case of collusion and corruption.
She said local authorities must place engagements at the forefront of their programming as management of public funds requires the involvement of stakeholders.
“We are working with the local authority to provide a platform for interface with their stakeholders to build social accountability because local authorities are the first contact with the government.
“Discussing procurement best practices is one way to reduce corruption and building capacity of the elected representatives to improve service delivery,” said Mutowekuziva.