Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo has defended Harare City Council officials for purchasing vehicles using funds from the US$144,4 million loan from China because the project had a provision for buying the cars.
Addressing the media during a tour of Morton Jaffray Water Works to review progress of the Harare Water and Sanitation Rehabilitation Projects yesterday, Minister Chombo said huge projects undertaken in the country had a provision for equipment and vehicles.
Dr Chombo, who asked acting town clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube the number of vehicles bought and if they were council property, said council could use at least one percent of the money to acquire project vehicles.
He said that there was nothing amiss with the top three council officials driving Range Rovers bought by the funds.
"We have heard about the investigations (council probe on alleged abuse of funds for the project) and the cost involved in it, sometimes they (councillors) need to satisfy themselves, but I was advising the deputy mayor (Thomas Muzuva) that I would have recommended seasoned engineers who understand how projects are done to carry out the investigations," said Dr Chombo.
"There is no project in this country which does not have project equipment and vehicles, but I think they could continue (with the investigations) then tell us what they come up with.
"The Discovery (vehicles) were bought for three people, the others were given pick-ups, well you make the judgment, but we will wait till their investigation is over so they give us their views and thinking."
Dr Chombo said the city's ceremonial mayor Mr Bernard Manyenyeni would get his Mercedes Benz the normal way.
"He told me he wanted a Mercedes Benz as the one he has is old," he said. "He needs a better car, I agree with him and I support it. I even went to CMED so that they can assist council to buy the car without paying duty and so on, so that he can have a car."
Mrs Ncube said the city bought 21 project vehicles and 35 utility vehicles, while water director Engineer Christopher Zvobgo said they used 0,09 percent of the project funds for the vehicles.
Minister Chombo said he was happy with the progress at Morton Jaffray. China Machinery and Engineering Corporation has started dismantling and decommissioning of obsolete equipment in readiness for the installation of new equipment at the city's pump stations.