A PROBE team tasked to investigate Harare City Council’s accounts has unearthed a can of worms with top management said to have grossly mismanaged public funds while neglecting service delivery.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
The report, by a probe team chaired by retired High Court judge George Smith, found acting town clerk Josephine Ncube, health director Prosper Chonzi, human resources director Cainos Chingombe and finance director Tendai Kwenda guilty of mismanaging council funds.
“It appears to the tribunal that management has failed to operate the affairs of the city council as a business over the four years that the tribunal has reviewed. A paltry return of 5% on assets was not commensurate with the investment in those assets and the high interest costs that were incurred to acquire them. Despite changes in environment, there appears to be failure to adapt the business strategies to ensure profitability,” the report read.
The team, which comprised of a lawyer, chartered accountant and a human resources expert, also accused the council’s top brass of looting public resources.
The report found that former top council executives such as retrenched spokesperson Leslie Gwindi were awarded “obscene” golden handshakes without due consideration of the council’s precarious financial position.
“The tribunal notes that there was neither consistency nor rationale behind the nature and quantification of all the negotiated retrenchment packages. For example, some employees were paid severance pay of two months’ salary for every year worked whilst others were paid only one and a half months or two weeks for every year worked. In a curious case, Gwindi was also awarded a brand new cellphone and six months’ telephone allowances,” the report read.
On contract leave allowances, the tribunal found top management to have looted council funds without approval from city fathers.
“The tribunal noted with grave concern that none of the recipients were employed in an academic capacity and none of them undertook a study or research of any kind at an academic or research institution during the period within which he or she received the payment,” the report showed.
Among those who received the money illegally were former town clerk Tendai Mahachi ($186 000) and Chingombe’s $40 100, among others.