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Mutare mayor, councillors fleece council of $12m

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Mutare mayor, councillors fleece council of $12m

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MUTARE Mayor Simon Chabuka and 11 other councillors yesterday appeared in court on allegations of fleecing the local authority of more than $12 million in travel and subsistence allowances after defying rates prescribed by the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.

Mr Chabuka and councillors Farai Mabiza, Elizabeth Tsoro, Zwenyika Misi, Daniel Saunyama, Blessing Tandi, Tsitsi Ziweya, Norman Nyanhanda, Exavior Upare, Sakai Cathrine, Thomas Nyamupanedenga and Calvin Matsiya were not asked to plead to the charges when they appeared at Mutare Magistrates Court charged with criminal abuse of office as public officers.

Mutare magistrate Mr Langton Carter released the councillors on $40 000 bail each and ordered them to return to court on July 26.

The State led by Mr Tirivanhu Mutyasira said the councillors were elected in 2018 and they were responsible for passing policies and making resolutions to be implemented by council management. The Minister of Local Government and Public Works gave a directive to all town clerks, secretaries and chief executive officers of all local authorities through circulars dated March 18, August 21 and November 16 2020 on allowances and perks for councillors, and included the rates to be used on travel and subsistence allowances for councillors.

The March 18, 2020 circular stated that travel and subsistence allowances for councillors would be calculated in terms of the prevailing Government rates plus 50 percent, while the August circular reviewed travel and subsistence rates as contained in Public Service Commission circular 13 of 2020.

It is said that the allowances were later reviewed upwards through the November circular.

While the Mutare council in April and September 2020 adopted the ministry circulars, the council was using different rates.

On March 2 last year, the councillors convened a special meeting and unanimously came up with a resolution which adopted use of council policy on travel and subsistence rates which were higher than those set in the ministerial circular.

On March 8 last year, acting Town Clerk wrote a letter to the Permanent Secretary for Local Government and Public Works advising of the resolution made to adjust councillors’ monthly allowances and travel and subsistence allowances following the adopted resolution.

The acting Town Clerk also sought clarity and advice on the interpretation of the purported conflicting circulars and way forward on the implementation of the council resolution which rescinded the earlier adopted circular, according to the State.

The court heard that the permanent secretary responded to the letter where he allegedly clarified issues.

Despite guidance from the permanent secretary, the councillors, acting in common purpose, allegedly disregarded the Ministry’s set travelling and subsistence rates and intentionally passed a resolution to use rates set in their own travel and subsistence policy.

The rates were said to be higher than those in the circular and the allegation is that they were showing favour to themselves as they were beneficiaries.

It is said that the council lost $12 264 290,66 between January 2021 to June this year. Herald

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