Stricter measures needed to rein in councillors

Source: Stricter measures needed to rein in councillors -Newsday Zimbabwe

FOR the past two decades or so, one of the biggest shortcomings of councillors elected to represent communities has been that they quickly forget the reason they joined local authorities.

While councillors play a major role in decisions which affect people’s lives, they are not paid salaries, but token allowances as appreciation for the time they spend conducting council business.

Therefore, a councillor’s work is largely voluntary and thankless.

It is against this background that it comes as sad that many of our councillors have over the years elected to turn councils into feeding troughs by demanding hefty allowances and do little to nothing to improve service delivery in their localities.

It is tragic that after each election, our councillors soon turn mercenary and embark on a spirited gold-digging spree by, for instance, coming up with endless workshops where they have an opportunity to milk councils’ fiscus by paying themselves astronomical stipends.

A case in point is the one reported in our NewsDay edition yesterday where some Harare councillors took home US$800 each after merely attending a two-day workshop in Kadoma.

There are questions which must be answered. Why do councillors across the country elect to travel to other jurisdictions for workshops and meetings which can easily be done at local council school halls or even community halls to cut costs? Ideally, should these councillors not be attending workshops coming from their homes to cut costs and for the simple reason that their role is voluntary?

Like the Bourbons, the opposition-dominated councils have learnt nothing and forgot nothing as they always fall into the trap of indulging in extravagance at the expense of service delivery.

This comes barely a week after Harare Metropolitan secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Tafadzwa Muguti, warned against profligacy at the expense of service delivery.

Why the opposition councillors choose to be naïve when they know full well that their every move is being closely monitored, boggles the mind.

We propose that all allowances be standardised across urban and rural local authorities so that whoever chooses to become a councillor volunteers to do so knowing that they are not boarding a gravy train.

It must also be cast in stone that all councils should conduct meetings and workshops in their localities to avoid this growing tendency by councillors to travel long distances to fatten their pockets with allowances.

The genuine desire to improve service delivery in their localities should be the calling for councillors and not the burning desire to become fat cats by siphoning council finances through unrealistic allowances.

It should, in fact, also be made abundantly clear that any council which violates set rules on allowances for meetings and workshops should immediately be dissolved and fresh elections conducted to rid the country of reprehensible, greedy councillors who are merely interested in self-enrichment while neglecting such critical issues as water and sanitation as well as waste management which affect people’s daily lives.

It cannot be business as usual.

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