THE Government has warned that it will soon descend on local authorities that still have not slashed their top officials’ salaries, declaring that it won’t hesitate to suspend any officials found abusing public funds.
In an interview with Sunday News, Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Engineer George Mlilo said they were now tired of councils that felt they could do as they wish while abusing rate payers’ monies. He described some of the councils as merely trying to “be silly”.
He further revealed that other local authorities were trying to challenge the Government directive on salaries in court noting that this was a futile attempt as the directive was binding.
“There are some local authorities that have become big-headed thinking that they can just ignore what we tell them. I know there are some councils that have ignored our cap on their top officials’ salaries, we will soon be descending on them because any Government directive is binding.
“What we have done is that those local authorities that have not yet complied with the directive to cut the salaries of their officials is that we simply do not approve their budgets and this means if we do not approve their budgets they are liable for prosecution as they will be using public funds without the approval of the Government and naturally the Anti-Corruption Commission will have to intervene,” said Eng Mlilo.
He singled out the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) revealing that he was still to approve their budget because the local authority had blatantly refused to adhere to the Government stipulated 70 percent service delivery to 30 percent salaries ratio.
“Honestly BCC is being silly as they continuously bring a budget that has a huge chunk of their funds going to workers’ salaries. Look at it, it’s now July and their budget is yet to be approved, they brought their budget on Friday and once again their salaries took a huge chunk of funds. When you look at it BCC is guilty of abusing public funds and should face prosecution. It is really worrying that a council that is in charge of the country’s second largest city clearly feels they can do as they will, which in my opinion is becoming big headed. We will soon be prosecuting them as what they are doing is illegal,” said Eng Mlilo.
He revealed that as a ministry they were aware that some local authorities were trying to bypass the Government directive by slashing salaries then introducing non-monetary benefits for their top officials.
“They are not clever at all because there is nothing called non-monetary benefits. When you say you are going to pay their children’s school fees it still requires money which thus becomes monetary at the end of the day. What I should warn them about is that these local authorities might think they are being clever for now but our audit teams will be coming to them soon and they will surely uncover all these anomalies and certainly we won’t hesitate to prosecute them,” said the permanent secretary.
Meanwhile, Eng Mlilo revealed that they were completing going through the investigation report on corruption allegations that were levelled against BCC, noting that heads would soon roll within the local authority.
“With what I have seen thus far a number of people will go down for abusing public funds, we are just completing the necessary processes but we shall soon be calling a huge press conference in Bulawayo where the findings will be revealed to the public,” said Eng Mlilo.
A couple of weeks ago the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission (ZACC) headed to the second largest city to investigate a number of corruption allegations levelled against the local authority and the findings are yet to be revealed.