This report is a product of consultations made by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) targeting residents, ratepayers and other special interest groups within the jurisdiction of the Gokwe Town Council (GTC) who decried poor service delivery, mal-administration and corruption within the rank and file of the local authority. In addition, some of the acts of corruption appear to have been facilitated by individuals at the Head-Office of the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
The exercise was important considering that local authorities play a crucial role in service delivery and the broader development agenda in Zimbabwe. In this quest, local authorities serve as an important stakeholder in the provision of essential services to residents and other stakeholders. This important role is executed by councillors and council staff, who have a collective responsibility of ensuring the effective delivery of services to the satisfaction of residents, ratepayers and other special interest groups within their council’s jurisdiction. However, corruption and mal-administration are undeniably among the greatest challenges affecting the performance of local authorities in Zimbabwe.
The epidemic nature of corruption and its manifestations in local authorities, such as Gokwe, are attributed to a number of shortcomings which include but not limited to the existence of political patronage, moral decadence, lack of monitoring, and lack of political-will among others. In other settings local authority management take advantage of councillors (politicians)’s lack of skills in certain areas to enrich themselves as is the case of Gokwe.
Considering the ever-deteriorating state of service delivery in Gokwe, ACT-SA was invited to a discussion on a plethora of allegations of corruption obtaining at Gokwe Town Council. There is every reason to suspect that developments in Gokwe serve as a microcosm of what could be obtaining in other local authorities country-wide, as has already been confirmed at Tongogara Rural District Council. It is important to mention at the outset that devolution efforts will be seriously undermined if corruption remains unchecked.
Consultations made confirmed that service delivery at the GTC is seriously beset by corruption, which the local authority has for a long time been trying to hide by refusing to carry out an independent forensic audit. Apart from the recruitment of the Town Secretary being controversial with allegations that she was imposed by high profile individuals, who criminally abused their duties as public officers, allegations of corruption, violation of tender regulations, mismanagement and behaviour bent on self-enrichment are rife. Consultations undertaken by ACT-SA made the following findings:
- It is alleged that the current Town Secretary (Melania Mandeya) was offered the position of Town Secretary regardless of having come fourth in the interviews, and not having the required qualifications. Before the interviews, the Panel was allegedly coached by the then Council Chairperson to give more marks to Melania Mandeya. Furthermore, the incumbent did not apply for the post during the first round of applications and the post had to be re-advertised to accommodate her application. It is alleged that Erica Johns who is the Human Resources Director based at the Head-quarters of the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing drove to Gokwe to make sure that Melania Mandeya’s application was part of the applicants. Protests from authorities at the local and provincial levels did not bear any fruits until she was offered the position.
- It is alleged that the Town Secretary (Melania Mandeya) received a salary and allowances for December 2014, when she only started work on the 5th of January 2015. ACT-SA has evidence of the payment thereof. It is alleged that the Acting Town Secretary and the Internal Auditor at the time refused to authorise the payment but she ended up being paid under suspicious circumstances.
- It is alleged that tenders are sometimes awarded to family members, friends and compatriots. For instance, the tender for the supply curtains for the Town House was awarded to a relative, whilst in May 2019, the tender for catering services of a benchmarking exercise was awarded to someone linked to some high profile individuals. The person contracted to render catering services used part of the money to pay for a stand allocated to the Acting District Administrator (Mr. Stewart Gwatirinda) in the Kambasha area. The relationship between the person who supplied catering services and the Acting District Administrator should be a subject of investigations.
- On or about 2011/2, the local authority paid US$23,000 for a brand-new Nissan NP300, which has never been delivered to date. In the process, the local authority suffered financial loss to the tune of US$23,000;
- The local authority allegedly bought a Chevrolet vehicle for the Town Secretary for US$58,000 when there were other bidders who had charged much less. For instance, there was a bidder who had charged US$51,000. Considering financial constraints besetting the local authority, it would have saved US$8,000.
- On the 23rd of May 2013, a resolution was made to procure a Toyota D4D vehicle from Croco Motors. The resolution was proposed by Cllr. D. Masvisvi and seconded by Cllr. O. Tangwara. However, the local authority ended up buying a second-hand and accident damaged vehicle which was more expensive than a brand new one considering the repairs made before it was deployed for use.
- Gokwe is one of the towns in which the former Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Senator for Gokwe, Jason Machaya was accused of abusing his office when he allegedly acquired stands for himself. It was further alleged that the Town Secretary (Melania Mandeya) owns more than one stand in the Kambasha low density suburb (Stands Number155 and 156). This was said to be in contravention of council policies.
- Senior managers at the local authority violate internal policies with impunity. For instance, one of the managers gave a council Foton vehicle to his/her child and was involved in an accident. Councillors requested for an accident report, which they refused to provide. As a result of the accident, service delivery was affected.
- Local authority by-laws are not enforced uniformly. All those perceived as critical of the local authority pay more penalties than others. The research team was given receipts showing convincingly that residents paid different penalties for the same offences such as trading without licences and lack of medical certificates.
- There is lack of transparency in the administration of grants from donors. For instance, a donation of US$8,000 from the Department of Parks and Wildlife as well as money donated by Zinara. Efforts by Councillors to get accountability of the same was thwarted. Similarly, the local authority allegedly paid US$23,000 towards a Volvo fire fighting vehicle which was donated by one Mr. Lobels.
- Councillors discovered that the local authority had a US Dollar Nostro Bank Account, which was opened secretly. This was said to be a secret account because it was not sanctioned by the policy-makers (Councillors). It is not clear on who the signatories are and how much was deposited and withdrawn from the account.
The research therefore concluded that there exist serious corruption and mal-administration threats within the rank and file of Gokwe Town Council which calls for further investigation and action by relevant authorities. In keeping with the above, giving a blind eye to the above allegations will be detrimental to development and hence the urgent need for a forensic audit of the local authority. In order to satisfy the legitimate expectations of the Gokwe Town broader constituency, the following recommendations are made:
- Forensic audit of the Gokwe Town Council. The research team learnt that a recommendation for a forensic audit for the period 2015 to 2019 was proposed by Cllr. T. Mukowora and seconded by Cllr. D. Taruvinga. However, the Town Council management has been resisting since then. To this end, a comprehensive forensic audit is recommended for the period 2015 to 2019.
- An investigation into corruption in the recruitment of the Town Secretary. It is important to identify the high-profile individuals who were behind the imposition of the current Town Secretary and charge them for criminal abuse of duty as public officers.
- If it is true that the Town Secretary received a salary and allowance for the month of December 2014, when she started work on the 5th of January 2015, she should refund the local authority.
- An investigation of tenders for the supply of curtains to the Town House as well as catering services for the May 2019 benchmarking exercise.
- An investigation into the payment of US$23,000 for a Nissan NP300 vehicle which was never delivered since on or about 2011 to date.
- An investigation into the allocation of stands in the town since the case of the former Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister and Senator for Gokwe, Jason Machaya, could be one among several others in which there was abuse of duty by public officers. Revelations that the Town Clerk and the acting District Administrator own stands in violation of Council by-laws serve as cues.
- Action to avert lack of uniformity in penalties for same offences. It is clear that there is lack of uniformity in the enforcement of the local authority by-laws. Several receipts have been availed as the evidence thereof. Having said this, the local authority is recommended to put its house in order.
- The prevalence of corruption at Gokwe Town Council should be considered as the litmus test on the capacity of the existing ethics architecture to fight corruption in local authorities around the country.
- Local authorities should conduct ethics training programs for employees and elected officials to raise ethics consciousness and to build skills capable of identifying and resolving ethical dilemmas.
- Local Government should urgently consider the establishment and introduction of an Internal Anti-corruption policy framework for local authorities.
Relevant authorities should invite the following officials to answer specific questions based on the findings of this research.
1.The Human Resource Director (Erica Johns) of the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing should answer the following questions:
- The allegation that she facilitated the recruitment of Melania Mandeya as the Town Secretary, especially that she demanded that the post be re-advertised and that she was going to alert Melania Mandeya to apply.
2. The former Chairperson of the Gokwe Town Council (E. Senga) should answer the following allegations levelled against her:
- The allegation that she coached the panel to score more marks for Melania Mandeya;
- The allegation that she rushed to offer employment to Melania Mandeya before approval by the Local Government Board.
3. The Town Secretary’s Office should answer the following allegations:
- Allegations that the Town Secretary was paid a salary and allowances for December 2014 when she only started work on the 5th of January 2015.
- Allegation that she awarded a tender for curtaining the Town house to a relative she was staying with and also that the tender was awarded in violation of tender procedures;
- Allegation that she recruited relatives at the Town Council, referring to the case of one Tatenda Nyika and the person who provided curtains to the Town house, among others.
- Allegation that the local authority diverted money from Zinara and ended up paying for road work services that should have been paid from Zinara donation with stands;
- That there was financial loss in the acquisition of the Town Secretary’s Chevrolet vehicle Registration Number AEF 2600.
- That the price of the Mazda BT50 may have been inflated thereby causing financial loss to the local authority;
- That a Toyota D4D was acquired in violation of a council resolution thereby causing financial loss to the local authority;
- That the Town Secretary allegedly gave herself two stands (Numbers 155 and 156) in the Kambasha area in violation of council policies;
- That the Toyota D4D was disposed of, in violation of council policies;
- That the Nostro Account Number 01721387410218 was opened without council approval and there is no accountability on how much money has been deposited and withdrawn from the account;
- That there are two transport policies that are causing confusion at the local authority;
- That there is lack of uniformity in the enforcement of policies for the local authority such as penalties for operating without licences and/or medical certificates;
- Allegation that she had a number of outstanding issues with her former employer.
4. The Director of Finance at the Gokwe Town Council should answer the following allegations:
- Allegation that he gave the local authority Foton Vehicle to his child to drive in violation of the council policies;
- Allegation that he confirmed that the NP300 was delivered but had problems with the keys though it was never seen in Gokwe.
5. The Acting District Administrator – Mr. Stewart Gwatirinda:
- Explanation on why Irene Maheya who rendered catering services to the Gokwe Town Council paid $4,000 for his stand in the Kambasha area;
- Explain the relationship between him and Irene Maheya.
A number of stakeholders interviewed suspect a corrupt relationship between Timber King (Pvt) Ltd t/a Big Valley Marketing and the Gokwe Town Council. There are allegations that the company has largely been given several tenders, including the supply of the NP300 which was never delivered. It was also involved in the supply of several other motor vehicles for the local authority. Questions were raised on why it was the only company chosen regardless of its alleged poor performance.
Source: Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa)