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Council projects suffer as economy in free fall

The Bulawayo City Council’s (BCC) finance committee says the economic instability in the country has derailed the implementation of most capital projects which has negatively affected the council`s mandate to deliver quality service.

In an interview with CITE, finance committee chairperson and Ward 4 councillor Silas Chigora said the implementation of the projects has been hampered by the council`s procurement regulations.

In 2016, the local authority launched the Ward Retention Fund where each ward to retain 3 percent of its monthly rates revenue collection to fund developmental programmes in their localities.

“For accountability and transparency, the finance committee has to adhere to procurement regulations hence the available funds end up losing their value.

“The challenges we have been facing of late are that quotations are no longer respected as prices are shooting up daily before projects are implemented and at most times processes have to be restarted,” said Cllr Chigora

According to Cllr Chigora, the ward retention fund came into effect after councillors realised there were peculiar needs within their wards.

“Each ward has a developmental committee which is chaired by the ward councillor. The committee consults residents on what projects to do over the year. After agreeing on a project, the committee writes a proposal and submits to the implementing department in council,” said Cllr Chigora.

“The department scrutinises the project. If it is in order, the ward is asked to look for three quotations. Materials are bought and the project is implemented. The contractor is paid through submission of invoices and sometimes suppliers are paid directly. All this is done by council officials in the normal manner they do in paying for suppliers. Neither the ward committee nor the Councillor receives cash disbursements. There is strict adherence to payment procedures,” said Cllr Chigora.

Cllr Chigora said one such project which failed to kick off in his ward was that of installing street lights.

He said the project came to a halt after money set aside for it devalued before the project could be implemented.

“After going through tender procedures, the contractor was told to commence work but there was the devaluation of the bond to USD leading to the contractor failing to do the job. As we speak the contract is in the process of being terminated.

“While all this is happening the value of money is being eroded. Like all other contracts in council it is becoming difficult to go around these daily price changes under this economic turmoil,” said Chigora.

Cllr Chigora explained the finance committee only make payments for invoices that are submitted to it and under normal circumstances, there should be no delays in carrying out disbursements.

“The delay we face is also caused by procurement procedures when some projects have to be advertised as per public entity procurement procedures. It is normally between the ward and the implementing department,” he said.

Cllr Chigora dismissed allegations by fellow councillors that the finance committee takes long to disburse funds hence failure to carry out the projects.

“Sometimes the ward committee brings projects that need coordination between departments. This takes time to conclude but money is always available for all these. As the Finance Committee Chairperson I can confirm that there is no record of any project failing to be funded due to lack funds,” he said.

 

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