Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GWERU City Council (GCC) commissioners have allegedly submitted a $50million 2016 budget to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for consideration without consulting residents.
The 2016 budget proposal is an increase of $19 million from last year’s of $31million.
Addressing fellow commissioners, two councillors and management at a council meeting on Thursday – chairperson of the commission running the affairs of Gweru- Tsunga Mhangami said: “As is the norm, when we submit the budget to the Ministry for approval, council has to adopt it.”
Commissioner in charge of finance, Arthur Choga, told the Chronicle that they had adopted the budget which was now in the hands of ministry officials.
He denied that council had smuggled the budget saying they had consulted with ministry officials.
The initial budget that was rejected by residents last year during budget consultative meetings was $31million.
However, Choga said what had increased was revenue to be generated and not expenditure.
He said they were projecting to raise about $18million from parastatals which are Zesa, NRZ and Telone, the companies he said were going to be charged “way leave”.
“Yes we have submitted a $50million budget for this year. It is a $19million increase from the initial budget of $31million. It was readjusted to $50million. It is however not a hike in tariffs for residents and businesses,” he said.
“We buy electricity from Zesa and we are now charging them for the space their substations take, the same with Telone for the space taken by their poles while NRZ will pay for the space taken by their railway line.”
Choga said residents will still be paying 70cents per kilolitre of water while the commercial charge for the same commodity stands at $1.40 per kilolitre.
He said the increase in the budget was necessitated by council’s need to recapitalise.
“Council is undercapitalised and the rise in revenue will finance capital projects,” said Choga.
In December last year, Gweru residents vehemently rejected the $31 million budget proposal.
Residents also lambasted the Mhangami-led commission for failing to bring order into the former MDC-T-led council and trying to impose a budget they did not approve.
Emotions ran high when Mhangami said council was going ahead with presenting the budget to the
Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Saviour Kasukuwere despite “resistance from certain quarters in the house”.
“There is never a time when people all agree on something. Even when it comes to the national budget, there is bound to be some people rejecting it. Because we don’t have time and can’t go on without a budget, we are going to present it to the Minister for consideration,” he said last year.
The house immediately interjected cutting short his address and demanded to have the budget subjected to a vote if it was to be forwarded to the minister.
“Everyone in this room except you and your management don’t want this budget because it is the one which we rejected last year and was clandestinely forwarded to the minister. If you say there are people who want the budget here let’s put it to a vote before we forward it,” a resident shouted.
Cleopas Matongo of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association said residents in Senga, Mtapa, and Mkoba suburbs disapproved of the proposed budget.
He said the residents are demanding that council adopts the 2014 budget alleging that the present budget was clandestinely approved.
Ward development committee chairperson for Mkoba 13, Lameck Sateko also weighed in accusing the commission of joining the gravy train instead of bringing sanity to council.
The commission was put in place in August after Kasukuwere suspended 11 councillors including Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi on allegations of corruption, mismanagement of funds and council property.