The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
COUNCILLORS in Bulawayo and a few top officials squandered $1,5 million in just two days at a workshop that was held early this month.
The revelation comes at a time when the local authority is struggling to pay its workers salaries while service delivery has completely stalled in some areas.
Surprisingly the workshop which residents have described as “a Christmas money spinner for the councillors and officials” was in defiance of a Government ban on out-of-town trips.
All the 20 councillors in the city attended although it could not be immediately established how many officials attended.
The move has attracted the wrath of residents who have questioned the local authority’s priorities.
According to a council confidential report, the workshop was held at Matopo Hills Lodge in the Matobo National Park on 3 and 4 December as part of the Annual General Meeting for Ingwebu Breweries.
Ingwebu Breweries is a wholly owned business of the city council trading under the name Bulawayo Municipal Commercial Undertaking.
“The Annual General Meeting for Ingwebu Breweries for the 2018 financial year end has been overdue and had therefore been scheduled for 3 December 2020 at Matopo Hills Lodge. This had been scheduled together with a City of Kings Business Venture projects update workshop on 4 December 2020.
“Travelling was scheduled for 2 December 2020, departing 3.30pm. The Town Clerk felt that there was a need to also include the cost of the workshop which was estimated to be approximately $1,5 million. He emphasised on the need for transparency on such issues,” reads part of the report.
The local authority, according to the report, sought funding for the workshop from their commercial entity, Ingwebu Breweries.
Contacted for comment, the city’s Mayor, Councillor Solomon Mguni defended the move saying council did not bear the brunt of the workshop as it had been organised by Ingwebu Breweries, which catered for the entire costs.
“I am not aware of the councillors workshop and the said costs of $1,5 million. What I am aware of is the Ingwebu Breweries Annual General meeting that was arranged by the company and councillors attended as shareholder representatives in terms of the Charter.
“So, the costs attended to the logistics can only be known by the company executives who arranged for the statutory meeting that has to be held in terms of the law,” said Clr Mguni.
Commenting on these developments, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu blasted the local authority for not setting their priorities straight and manage its expenses.
He said the money could have been used to cater for other service delivery related matters rather than pushing for a luxury outing.
“This is completely unacceptable. The local authority has been irresponsible with funds. It’s an indication of collective blindness on the part of BCC over failure to manage expenses despite the fact that council is fiscally distressed. The amount is too much for 20 councillors trained over two days,” said Mr Ndlovu.
The Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in 2019 banned the holding of council workshops and seminars outside their jurisdictions to minimise the abuse of funds.
According to Circular No. 12 of 2019, such trips can only be held with the approval of the permanent secretary.
The circular reads: “The Honourable (minister) has placed a restriction on the holding of workshops, seminars, training and similar events outside of the council jurisdiction in the case of urban councils and outside the administrative district in the case of rural district councils unless authority to hold a function at an alternative venue has been sanctioned by the permanent secretary.
“Any council wishing to hold a function outside the limits given should make submission to the permanent secretary in writing giving justifications for same.”