‘No ratepay­ers’money for le­gal costs’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Leonard Ncube in Vic­to­ria Falls

LO­CAL au­thor­i­ties will not be al­lowed to use ratepay­ers’ money to pay le­gal costs when new ur­ban coun­cils reg­u­la­tions come into force, a se­nior of­fi­cial has said.

The Gov­ern­ment is in the process of re­view­ing coun­cil reg­u­la­tions un­der the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Laws Amend­ment Bill of 2016 to align it with the pro­vi­sions of the new con­sti­tu­tion and modern prac­tice in the run­ning of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. The Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Pub­lic Works and Na­tional Hous­ing, En­gi­neer George Mlilo, said this as he read the riot act to coun­cil­lors, may­ors, and of­fi­cials from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties at the just ended in­au­gu­ral Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment In­vest­ment Con­fer­ence in Vic­to­ria Falls.

He ac­cused coun­cils of us­ing rate pay­ers’ money to pay le­gal costs em­a­nat­ing from in-house squab­bles where coun­cil­lors and man­age­ment de­lib­er­ately sus­pend each other. This af­fects ser­vice de­liv­ery as rev­enue that is sup­posed to de­velop cap­i­tal projects is redi­rected to le­gal costs when those sus­pended seek le­gal re­course.

“Coun­cil­lors can jump to sus­pend mem­bers but ac­cord­ing to the new reg­u­la­tions, they should take re­spon­si­bil­ity when the mat­ter spills to the courts.

“Ratepay­ers’ money can’t be used to foot le­gal costs,” said Eng Mlilo. He said ev­ery councillor who moves a mo­tion or sec­onds for le­gal ac­tion should be re­spon­si­ble for costs that en­sue, adding that it was bet­ter for one to re­cuse them­selves from such coun­cil meet­ings.

“Peo­ple should un­der­stand that there is not go­ing to be fun any­more. If you make a mis­take, ac­count­abil­ity will go to all of you who par­tic­i­pated than to use ratepay­ers’ money. You go le­gal, you tend to lose per­son­ally be­cause no ratepay­ers’ money will pay le­gal fees,” Eng Mlilo said. Un­der the new reg­u­la­tions, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are man­dated to sub­mit to the par­ent min­istry min­utes of ev­ery coun­cil meet­ing for con­sid­er­a­tion. “What­ever you dis­cuss in coun­cil, it is ad­vis­able that you pass on the min­utes to the min­istry so that it re­scinds some things that wouldn’t be legally right. The prob­lem is that you want to hide your ac­tiv­i­ties,” Eng Mlilo said said. The Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary en­cour­aged coun­cils to fill va­cant posts that are manned by act­ing of­fi­cers with sub­stan­tive of­fi­cers say­ing that would help build in­vestor con­fi­dence. In terms of bud­gets, Eng Mlilo warned coun­cils against seek­ing to al­ter the ap­proved frame­works so that they could chan­nel sub­stan­tive amounts to salaries. A num­ber of coun­cils have in the past strug­gled to have their bud­gets ap­proved by the Gov­ern­ment ow­ing to fail­ure to meet the 70:30 per­cent ser­vice de­liv­ery/salaries ra­tio. Eng Mlilo’s warn­ing comes at a time when mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties such as Harare and Vic­to­ria Falls have been dragged to court by in­di­vid­u­als within the lo­cal au­thor­ity ranks. In Vic­to­ria Falls, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity owes close to $800, 000 in le­gal fees em­a­nat­ing from a case where the lo­cal au­thor­ity failed to hon­our rec­om­men­da­tions of a job eval­u­a­tion which rec­om­mended re­duc­tion of al­lowances for top man­agers. In Harare, the Town Clerk/Mayor saga in which Mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni sus­pended Mr James Mushore who had been ap­pointed Town Clerk also spilled to the courts. — @ ncubeleon

En­gi­neer George Mlilo

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