Maputo — The newly elected mayor of the central Mozambican city of Quelimane, Manuel de Araujo, says that on taking office he found the municipal coffers empty, and the City Council facing debts of more than four million meticais (about 148,000 US dollars).
Speaking on Tuesday, at a ceremony to swear in five municipal councillors, Araujo said that his team is studying the debts, one by one, to ascertain exactly how they were contracted. He added there are signs that some of the debts are "linked to corruption".
Araujo said that part of the debt was to pay wages to "ghost workers" - members of the ruling Frelimo Party who were on the Quelimane Council payroll, but who never signed the attendance register. According to Araujo, there is no evidence that they ever worked for the Council.
"We are going to clean up the ranks of the municipality", he pledged, "to ensure that the money of the municipality is used to create well-being in Quelimane".
In less than a fortnight of Araujo's governance, the Council's revenue from Quelimane's municipal markets has doubled, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais".
Average daily revenue from the fees paid by market vendors used not to exceed 5,000 meticais a day. But from 30 December (the day that Araujo took office) until 10 January, the fees from the 14 markets reached 98,000 meticais.
Araujo achieved this by appointing a team to work with the market inspectors and prevent any siphoning off of the fees collected. His conclusion was that the previous collection system had been "inefficient" and that "not all the money collected reached the municipal coffers".
"O Pais" reports that fraud had been committed in the past by market inspectors forging the signature of Araujo's predecessor, Pio Matos.
Araujo is a member of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). He won the municipal by-election on 7 December, taking 63 per cent of the vote to 37 per cent for his Frelimo opponent, Lourenco Aboobakar.