By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
29 April 2014
Fresh allegations of graft have surfaced at the scandal-prone Chitungwiza City Council, where four officials are said to have stolen $650,000 from the authority.
The managers have been named as finance director Evangelista Machona, chamber secretary Priscilla Vengesai, town clerk George Makunde and human resources manager Mary Rashamira.
In the latest con, the officials are said to have opened a bank account into which Machona deposited money on the false pretense that it was for salaries.
The money would then be transferred to personal accounts belonging to the senior officials, according to a Herald newspaper report Monday.
An audit raised questions about the money transfers which occurred between January 2012 and this year.
Vengesai reportedly signed the ‘salary’ transfers, made into a special FBC Bank account, when in fact they were supposed to get their salaries in cash.
The officials carried out the theft at a time when the majority of the Chitungwiza municipality workers were not being paid, with service delivery at its lowest.
Details in the Herald report show that in January last year, revenue manager Ezekiel Chifamba had $2,635 transferred into his account yet his payslip reflected $1,739 as his salary.
That same month town clerk Makunde had $10,000 deposited into two personal accounts instead of the $4,084 reflected on his payslip.
Also in January last year, a person only identified as Mak benefited from a transaction involving $95,000, the Herald stated in its report.
The managers also ignored a recommendation from a probe team to suspend executive salaries in January 2012 and went ahead and paid themselves salaries of between $12,000 and $33,000.
Between January and March this year, Vengesai and Machona authorised a salary payment of $135,000 from the council salaries account into the slush account.
Another $280,000 was taken from council coffers without supporting documents, the Herald report said, quoting an auditing source.
Chitungwiza residents, who have been expressing concern over deteriorating service delivery at the dormitory town, say the extent of looting at the council runs into millions of dollars.
An official with the Chitungwiza Progressive Residents Association (CHIPRA) said residents raised the alarm in February and said the $650,000 cited in the media is a fraction of the funds looted from council coffers.
“We believe that at least $2 million has vanished and we are incensed at the way the council is being managed,” CHIPRA director Admire Zaya said on Monday.
“Residents have no water, dumpsites have mushroomed because refuse is not being collected, yet senior officials continue to pay themselves hefty salaries and allowances
“We have been asking to see a council salary schedule to help us ascertain how much is allocated to service delivery and how much goes to salaries, but our requests have been resisted,” Zaya added.
The Chitungwiza municipality has a workforce of 1,700 most of whom have not been receiving any wages. Not so with the 18 managers at the local authority who seem to have been paying themselves handsomely.
Zaya said it is well-known that ZANU PF, through Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo who appoints town clerks, is presiding over the rot in councils.
“Regardless of the revelations of corruption that have been brought to the attention of Chombo he has not moved to curtail corruption or financial mismanagement.
“But the opposition MDC-T party, which commands a majority in the council, is not doing anything to tackle corruption and improve service delivery at the council.”
The MDC-T is currently pre-occupied with the infighting that’s threatening to split the party and has failed to take a firm stand against widespread corruption in the form of salary scandals.