THE cash-strapped Harare City Council (HCC) has splurged ZW$1,6 million and US$69 000 on local and foreign travel at a time it is battling to provide treated water and other essential services to residents, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
This comes at a time the city is struggling to mobilise sufficient foreign currency required to import water treatment chemicals. The council needs US$3 million per month for water treatment chemicals. As a result, HCC has embarked on large-scale water rationing, crippling industries.
Documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent show that, in total, ZW$2,6 million (US$173 000) was blown to foot costs arising from local and foreign travel, conferences, workshops, exchange programmes, seminars and tours between July and November 2019.
Of the amount, ZW$127 437 (US$8 495) is budgeted for foreign trips in November and the remaining days of October.According to minutes from council’s human resource and general purpose committee meetings of August 15 and 17, the local authority approved and resolved to finance all expenses related to the local and foreign travel of council officials.
The meetings held at Town House were chaired by chairperson of the committee councillor Jacob Mafume of ward 17 (Mt Pleasant), his deputy, councillor Steven Dhliwayo of ward 40 (Dzivaresekwa) and also in attendance were deputy mayor Enock Mupamawonde and town clerk Hosiah Chisango.
The minutes show that in the month of July, council officials from various departments including health services travelled to Victoria Falls, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Kariba and South Africa on municipal business.
In September and October, officials were provided with travel allowances and conference fees to meetings held in the resort towns of Victoria Falls, Kariba and Nyanga. The mayor and the town clerk also travelled to Washington DC while the deputy mayor and some delegates travelled to South Korea and others to Belarus.
The trip to Washington DC cost US$20 262, equivalent to ZW$303 930 at the current inter-bank rate.“That, in terms of clause 10.2 of council’s talent development policy, his worship, the mayor and town clerk referred to in paragraph 5.1 and 5.2 of the confidential report (29th July 2019) by the acting chamber secretary be are hereby authorised to attend the Urban Land Institute (ULI) fall meeting to be held in Washington DC from the 18th to 21st September 2019 at a total cost to council of US$20 262,00 in fares, accommodation, out of pocket and entertainment allowances,” the minutes read.
During the same month, chairperson of council’s business committee, the acting finance director and the acting business development manager undertook a tour of Russia and Belarus as delegates of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC). The trip cost council US$19 360 (ZW$290 400).
“The committee authorises the tour of Russia and Belarus by chairperson of the business committee, the acting finance director and the acting business development manager referred to in paragraph 5.2 of the confidential report (15th August 2019) by the acting chamber secretary from the 28th September 2019 to 4th October 2019 at a total cost of US$19 360, 00 in airfares, entertainment and subsistence allowances as part of the ZNCC delegation,” the minutes read.
The committee also facilitated the travel of the deputy mayor, chairperson of the human resource and general purpose committee, the director of housing and community service and head of education and social services to attend a dance festival in Cheonan, South Korea, from the 25th to the 29th of September 2019. The total travel expense was US$12 000 (ZWL$180 000). This month, members of the health services department are scheduled to travel to South Africa, from the 16th to the 18th, to attend a Paediatric Adolescence Treatment summit. Next month, council employees are expected to travel to Amsterdam and Kenya between November 4 and 10. The two trips will cost the council US$7 815,80 (ZW$117 237).
The mayor, accompanied by one delegate, is also expected to attend a one-day conference in Kenya at a total cost of US$6 207,50 (ZW$93 112,50).
“The committee considered a confidential report (26th July 2019, circulated with the Agenda) by the acting chamber secretary recommending granting authority for his worship, the mayor and principal housing officer to attend the Future of African Cities conference to be held at Vipingo Ridge in Mombasa, Kenya from 8th to 10th November 2019 at total cost of US$6 207.50 in relevant allowances.
“The conference hosts would pay for the mayor’s accommodation costs in Kenya and local costs in Kenya while the city of Harare would pay for the mayor’s return airfares, allowances and related travel expenses including costs related to the accompanying official,” read the minutes.
Council resolved to fork out the money needed for the trip.
Meanwhile, council revised and increased foreign travel and subsistence allowances with effect from April 1, 2019.“The acting human capital director in consultation with the acting finance director and acting chamber secretary modernised the nomenclature for all allowances paid to officials travelling outside Zimbabwe on council business, exchange programmes and attending conferences and seminars.
“The ministry of Finance and Economic Development provided the new treasury circular No. 5 of 2019 which was read together with cabinet No. 17 of 2009 on payment of subsistence for foreign travel. The new rates paid by government were with effect from 1st April 2019,” the minutes read.