BY BRENNA MATENDERE
FOUR external auditors from the Comptroller and Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s office, who are taking stock of the Gweru City Council’s books, have gobbled $82 000 in allowances from the cash-strapped local authority, investigations by Southern Eye have revealed.
Gweru is struggling financially and its own workers this week declared incapacitation.
Revelations show that the local authority’s books are lagging behind in terms of audits and it had taken the step to try and catch up.
Currently, the auditors are working on the 2016 financial books.
However, since the external auditors started work on October 29, they have so far gobbled $82 000 in allowances on top of having all their other expenses such as accommodation and food, paid for by the struggling local authority.
Leaked minutes of a report by the finance committee headed by councillor Martin Chivhoko, tabled before a full council meeting held on November 18, show that the city councillors and mayor Josiah Makombe were shocked by the development, as acting finance director Owen Masimba insisted that the expenditure be approved.
The councillors were particularly incensed by the fact that Masimba had already made some payments to the external auditors without the knowledge of the city fathers.
“For the audit of 2015, we actually paid $45 000 to the auditors and the reason why we had to bring the expenditure of 2016, which is $82 000 to the full council for adoption, is because we realised the figure had gone up. We have been paying the auditors the money in staggered payments every Monday since we had our first entrance meeting with them on October 29. As the finance department, we tried to reduce the costs by sending our vehicle to collect the auditors in Harare, instead of giving them money each for fuel,” Masimba said.
However, the minutes indicate that ward 11 councillor Albert Chirawu had no kind words.
“Why should we pay such a big figure to the auditors when we have catered for all the other expenses, like accommodation and food. It is also worrying that some payments have already been made without our approval as councillors and we are now required to just rubber stamp the plea from the finance department to adopt the expenditure,” Chirawu said.
Ward 15 councillor Trust Chineni, according to the minutes, sought to have the payments to the auditors frozen and the report seeking to have the expenditure adopted put on abeyance.
Ward 14 councillor Dan Ndaba revealed that as a member of the council’s audit committee, he was shocked to know of the presence of the external auditors when they had already begun the work.
“As members of the audit committee, we ought to have been informed. It raises eyebrows when we just meet strangers in the corridors and upon inquiry, we are told they are external auditors already auditing our books,” he said.
Yesterday, Makombe acknowledged the $82 000 expenditure, but insisted that it was too late for councillors to stop the expenditure since management had already brought the external auditors to Town House.
“We could not say let’s stop paying them because they had already started the work by November 18 when the matter was brought to full council,” he said.
“So what we have done is that for the 2017 audit, we need to be very clear with the auditors before they start their work in terms of costs and probably negotiate for a cut of the costs. We have so many priorities as you might be aware and we have a policy to save ratepayers’ money as much as we can.”