By Stephen Chadenga
Gweru City Council doled out residential stands to workers in lieu of outstanding salaries and bonuses for 2015 without government approval and in violation of the Urban Councils Act, a forensic land audit conducted by the Local Government ministry has revealed.
According to the report, which exposed shady land deals by council officials, the decision to parcel out stands to workers was not above board and partly prejudiced beneficiaries of the Mkoba 21 housing scheme.
“Council used its land in Mkoba 21 valued at $5 359 099 as payment to meet the emoluments or portion of the payments due to the employees of the council for the period September to December 2015 without the minister’s approval in violation of the Urban Council’s Act,” the audit report read.
“There was no evidence that the minister had approved the setting off of salary arrears against residential stands valued at an average $4 970 each.”
Added the report: “In 2015, 1 029 permanent employees in grades one to 12 took up the stands and the $5 359 099 had not yet been paid into the land sales account as at date of audit.
Some of the employees’ outstanding salaries could not wholly sustain the stands purchase price, hence the relevant balance of the stands was to be cleared through a stop-order deduction system over a period of 48 months by respective employees.”
According to the report, the anomaly saw council failing to service the stands since no actual amount was channelled to the land sales account as part of the capital loan used to pay the workers.
The report also noted that as at date of audit, $6 919 774 was collected for Mkoba 21 stands by previous council administration, but to date no servicing of stands had taken place except for title surveying that cost $1 172 928.
Council, according to the audit, also diverted $4 834 330 from the housing scheme account and considering the $5 359 099 due for stands in lieu of salary arrears, Mkoba 21 housing scheme account had a balance of only $912 515 at March 31, 2019 instead of $11 105 945.
Mayor Josiah Makombe blamed the previous administration for the unprocedural land deal.
“Although these anomalies were done by previous office bearers, we will not fold our hands as we endeavour to make good of the forensic land audit,” he said.
“As you are aware, we have already begun action and some officials have already been suspended over this report with disciplinary procedures instituted.” NewsDay