Chombo “robbing” town to pay for mistakes, say residents

Chitungwiza residents are preparing a legal challenge against the minister of local government, public works and national housing, Ignatius Chombo, for directing the local authority to pay $300,000 in allowances to a 16-member commission probing illegal building in the town.

Chombo
Chombo

According to the local authority, Chombo directed that each commissioner be paid $900 a day for the 20-day investigation. The commissioners also received $4,600 to share among themselves for expenses and they were given a full tank of petrol at the council workshops every morning.

Each commissioner pocketed $18,000 by the time the assignment ended this week.

The council was also advised to put aside an undisclosed amount of money for an unidentified probe team boss.

Donald Makuwaza of the Chitungwiza Residents’ Trust told The Zimbabwean that residents resolved to fight the Chombo allowances directive on two fronts and called for peaceful demonstrations around the town.

Makuwaza accused Chombo of being insensitive to the plight of Chitungwiza town council and its residents. He said they were now seeking a ruling that would bar Chombo from appointing any commission for the town in future.

He said it was an insult to residents’ intelligence for Chombo to “rob” council through commission allowances for investigating a mess caused by government failure to provide shelter for the needy.

Chitungwiza was struggling to make ends meet and owed its workers 10 months’ salaries and wages. Services such as refuse collection and water provision were grinding to a halt.

Some residents get tap water for less than an hour a day and other areas haven’t had water for the past four years due to financial challenges.

Chitungwiza mayor Philip Mutoti said he was shocked at the unimaginable allowances, which came at a time the local authority was operating on almost depleted coffers.

Though Chombo could not be reached for comment, his permanent secretary, Killian Mupingo, said: “There is no way we can make the struggling local authority meet the investigation costs. I do not know anything about the $300,000 commission allowances issue.”

Mupingo’s denials contradicted claims made by top council officials that he had phoned, advising the local authority that the allowances had to be paid according to the ministerial directive.

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