The Herald (Harare)

14 January 2013

Zimbabwe: MDC-T Councillors in Tender Row

Some MDC-T councillors and management in most local authorities are clashing over the awarding of tenders to companies amid calls for politicians to leave the procurement mandate to council officials with the technical expertise.

Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe president and Masvingo Mayor Femias Chakabuda last Wednesday said several councils had faced the same problem as councillors and management fought over the awarding of tenders.

This had resulted in poor service delivery in councils.

Reports said some councillors also wanted to control the tendering process to get kick backs from winners.

Said Mayor Chakabuda: "The challenge we have is that sometimes management can propose who should be given a tender based on the lowest price they would have charged but councillors may feel that the price is too low, raising a possibility of a review upwards when the work is half way through.

"In that scenario councillors may say let's give the tender to someone who charged slightly higher because there will be possibilities of finishing the work without asking for a top up.

"In that case, management may then decide to hold back and stop supervising the person who would have been given the tender so that if the project fails they then blame councillors, saying they gave tenders to incompetent people."

He said this was experienced in most local authorities.

However, Zimbabwe Local Government Association president Mr Nimrod Chiminya, said procurement matters were clearly spelt out in the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act.

"The Acts are very clear that councils function through resolutions recommended by a sub committee to the full council including issues to do with procurement," he said.

"The clash is misunderstanding the Acts because they are very clear on the roles."

However, a procurement expert said the Acts were supposed to be amended to give the procurement mandate to management only while councillors exercise their oversight role and give policy guidance.

"Corporate governance principles require segregation of duties to facilitate an oversight role.

Councillors are an equivalent of board members elected by shareholders, the electorate," said the source.

"They must provide policy direction only and management must put in systems to operationalise that policy. Involving councillors in procurement decisions dilutes the oversight function and the big question will be -- who will guard the guard?

"Procurement is technical and professionals must be given the opportunity to practise to induce efficiency in business operations under the supervision of the Town Clerk.

"Councillors, like the board of directors must provide policy on issues such as preferential treatment for locals, quota system when there are a number of local suppliers so as to promote local manufacturing and management of monopolies."

Meanwhile, Mayor Chakabuda said his association had written to the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and political parties expressing their disappointment at the way councillors accused of corruption have either been axed or suspended.

"As an association we are not happy with the way councillors and mayors have either been fired or suspended on allegations of corruption when they have not been tried," he said.

"We have since made representations to Government and political parties advising them to follow the proper procedure of convening hearings for accused people."

However, Mr Chiminya said there was nothing wrong with the way accused councillors and other officials had been either suspended or fired.

"We believe it (suspensions and axing) was procedural to the best of my knowledge. We also believe that corruption is everywhere. We are targeting it head-on as much as we can," said Mr Chiminya.

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