City of Bulawayo councillors have expressed concern over the lack of transparency in Council’s handling of ward retention funds and threatened to invite the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) for investigations.
The ward retention fund is made up of three percent of total rates paid by residents in a ward to the local authority every month.
That money is ploughed back to the wards to establish and sustain their community development projects.
During a full council meeting, Wednesday, deputy mayor and Ward 3 councillor, Tinashe Kambarami, noted with concern, the lack of transparency in the way funds were administered.
Kambarami said failure to readily avail the funds by the relevant committees was in contravention of the ward retention fund constitution which states that the funds are supposed to be kept in a separate account and readily available upon request.
He said his ward had been trying to access funds for the past seven months to procure electric grass cutters but were told the money was unavailable.
“These funds are not donations nor are they pledges from the council to the people, they come directly from the residents. The constitution states that residents shall be given access to this money whenever they identify projects they wish to embark on.
“It is now difficult for us to start explaining to residents that the money is unavailable. Someone has to explain what happened to the funds, if the money is there. The ward retention funds are supposed to be kept in own separate account,” Kambarami said.
Alderman Siboniso Khumalo reiterated the importance of transparency in accounting for the ward retention funds, adding failure to do such by relevant committees would result in them calling ZACC to come investigate.
Alderman Khumalo emphasised that misappropriation of public funds was a serious offense, which would not only land perpetrators in prison but would turn residents against councillors.
“When this programme was introduced, we called residents and explained to them that the ward retention funds would be handled directly by the council. If we are to tell them, the money is no longer there, they will blame councillors for squandering it. As we speak Pumula South must be having about ZW$149 000 in its account,” she said.
Cllr Donaldson Mabuto said when he entered office, he inquired with the finance department and was told Ward 9 had ZW$41 500 in its account but was surprised to be told later that only $13 000 was left yet no requisition for money had been made.
“We sincerely hope an error occurred in the account and that no money is missing from it. I’m sure, if the finance department was to check their files, it would realise no request was made at all by our ward. If these funds are not accounted for, we have no other choice but to call on the anti-corruption committee,” he echoed.