By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
26 March 2014
Masvingo City Council has spent close to $1 million dollars hiring vehicles for its executives while its own fleet rots at the Messenger of Court, press reports suggest.
The council pays the Central Mechanical and Engineering Department $40,000 per month for the vehicles, which also include those used for refuse collection.
In the past 17 months the local authority has spent $700,000 in ratepayers’ money for vehicles for its top officials, including the mayoral Mercedes Benz, the Herald reported Wednesday.
Council has relied on hired vehicles since 2012, when a messenger of court attached the municipal fleet, comprising the mayoral Mercedes, front-end loaders, and tippers, following a $3.5 million wage dispute with municipal workers.
The vehicles are with the messenger of court as the matter is still to be finalised. Some residents now suspect that some top officials may be benefitting from the hire scheme, saying this could be the reason why the council is seemingly not doing enough to resolve the dispute and recover the vehicles.
Masvingo Mayor Hubert Fidze told the Herald that his council is “pained that a lot of money continues to be paid every month to hire vehicles for our operations.”
However he said there was very little that they can do “since the case is before the courts. We have to wait for the court process to take its course though this is a very worrisome issue to us,” Fidze said.
Last month, Masvingo residents demanded to be furnished with the payroll details of the Council, amid allegations that top management were receiving hefty salaries while ordinary municipal workers were going for months without being paid.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa Wednesday, Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Association coordinator Anoziva Muguti said the council was short-changing them.
“For us the money that they are giving the CMED on a monthly basis is enough to purchase new vehicles for the council.
“The council is failing to prioritise the needs of residents. Service delivery in Masvingo is appalling, roads are heavily-potholed, water supply is erratic, the sewer reticulation project started last year is still unfinished, yet the council prioritises hiring luxury vehicles,” Muguti said.
Muguti said residents had tried to pressure the local authority to resolve the salary arrears court battle but were told that the Supreme Court is to blame for the delay.
“Last week I visited the deputy sheriff’s premises and saw the vehicles. They are all in a dilapidated state and will not be fit for purpose, even if they are released,” Muguti added.