By Fungai Kwaramba
HARARE – Cabinet has blocked a move by Vice President Joice Mujuru to force local authorities — widely led by the MDC — to procure goods through the State Procurement Board. Finance minister Tendai Biti told journalists last week that a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Robert Mugabe had resolved to give procurement powers back to local authorities.
A statutory instrument promulgated by Mujuru after consulting Biti stated that all local authorities had been included on the list of entities on whose behalf the State Procurement Board conducted buying procedures. The move was widely condemned by local authorities, who described it as a form of dictatorship and abuse of power by central government.
Mujuru had argued the move would curb corruption, which is rampant in councils. But the local authorities argued that the curtailing of their powers by government severely exposed residents to disease outbreaks as it would take longer under the arrangement to secure essentials such as water treatment chemicals.
Government and local authorities have been involved in a tug of war since 2000 when Mujuru, as the minister responsible for water then, took over water management from municipalities. In 2000, government went on to form the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) which was a monumental flop as it failed to deliver water to cities and towns.
Zinwa is accused of having run down water management, leading eventually to a deadly cholera outbreak between 2008 and 2009 that killed at least 4 000 people and affected more than 100 000 others. Biti said government was confident that despite corruption, local authorities had the capacity to procure goods without going through the tender board.
“We discussed the matter of procurement in Cabinet and there was agreement that the statutory instrument is wrong, it is null and void. It is going to be withdrawn…local authorities must continue what they have been doing. They should follow their own laws,” said Biti. Daily News