By Auxilia Katongomara
The Bulawayo City Council does not have title deeds for some of its important buildings like the Tower Block and City Hall as well as its dams, hampering efforts to compile a proper asset register as recommended by Government.
The bombshell revelation, made by the BCC Finance Director Mr Kimptom Ndimande at a Finance Review Meeting with stakeholders at the Large City Hall on Wednesday, was met with shock from residents who said the local authority was treading on a dangerous path as it may lose ownership of the assets because of lack of legal ownership.
The Auditor General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, has on several occasions raised a red flag on the council’s asset register after several audits have revealed that it was in shambles.
In a 2017 audit report, Mrs Chiri said there was no differentiation between minor and major assets at BCC, posing the risk that capital assets could be misappropriated if expensed as minor assets.
She recommended that a formal policy on what constitutes a minor and a major asset be documented to promote uniformity and consistency in the accounting for assets.
“City of Bulawayo accounts for fixed asset additions based on whether they are minor or major assets.
There was no documented policy to give clarity on what constitutes a minor and major asset,” read the report.
Responding to questions from residents on how far the local authority had gone in fixing the asset register during the finance review meeting, Mr Ndimande said BCC was struggling to put up some of its assets on the asset register as they had no title deeds.
“Turning to the asset register, we did have an asset register, we do have one but not in the manner the Auditor General would like it to be. I will give you an example, this building (Large City Hall) should be on our asset register but we don’t have title deeds to this building but it’s ours.
“The Tower block also, we don’t have title deeds to it because when it is on the asset register, we should have specific reference to it which in this case should be the title deed,” he said.
Mr Ndimande said such technical issues delayed the proper assembling of the asset register.
“Those are the technical issues that affect the quality of our asset register. If you as a citizen wants to look at the asset listing, it has always been there, that’s why when we go around our buildings, we see a little thing that has been put up by the buildings section that shows that this is a council building.
“However, again it doesn’t satisfy the dictates of the wishes of the Auditor General because it does not have a specific unique number to that building,” he explained.
Mr Ndimande said all other assets like vehicles have a unique number and are on the asset register.
A resident asked who was holding the Council’s title deeds and what action council was taking to get copies of the deeds.
“There have never been title deeds because this was our building, yithi usobhuku, so in the past it was fine. This is exactly what we are pursuing now. As you know, council has a lot of assets that are council specific like roads, it’s difficult to put a value on the road, your pipes underground, all those things.
“As councils, we are working together for that evaluation, all classes of assets that we hold like your dams, those are our dams by the way; they are not in our asset register as we speak because of the way we were treating them in the past,” Mr Ndimande said.
He said the local authority was in the process of getting the documents in order to meet the 2025 deadline to comply with the order.
Mr Ndimande told residents and stakeholders that the BCC had title deeds to the Bulawayo Power Station which they have been urged to take over from the Zimbabwe Power Company.
He also revealed that the local authority’s assets were under insured as insurers were now demanding foreign currency.
“Our insurer told us that we are under insured, we were paying in bond and the insurer said if you pay in bond, I cannot cover you. As we speak council is so under insured that any small disaster can tip us off and that’s a fact,” Mr Ndimande said. The Chronicle