Several local authorities are failing to account for thousands of litres of fuel allocated and disbursed for specific projects in an exposé that confirms how corruption is now rife within councils.
Just like parastatals, local authorities have also become havens of corruption that have since been red flagged by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri in her latest report on municipalities and town offices across the country.
According to a report by Chiri on the financial year ended 31 December 2021 presented to Parliament this week, several local authorities have failed to avail books of account for auditing while others failed to account for resources, mainly fuel, given to them for specific projects.
Marondera was one of the many found wanting after failing to account for over
10 000 litres of both petrol and diesel.
“On fuel management, the Council maintained a register for liquid fuel where recipients were signing as an acknowledgement of collection. However, 3 783 litres of petrol and 6 896 litres of diesel were issued without being signed for in 2019,” Chiri said.
“As a result, I could not verify whether the fuel was collected and used for council business. The risk or implication is financial loss due to misappropriation,” the report added.
The Auditor-General recommended that issued fuel be signed for while the local authority management, in response, acknowledged the observation and attributed the lapses in control to a staff shortage in the stores section.
In Bindura, the local authority is struggling to account for fuel meant for the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara) projects amounting to 1 054 litres for other council business.
“However, I was not availed with reconciliations or evidence of reimbursement of the fuel. The risk or implication is poor service delivery due to shortage of fuel.
“Council should ensure that fuel is used for the intended purpose,” Chiri said. In its response, council management said a reconciliation of the Zinara fuel usage will be conducted and a reimbursement will be made.
It also emerged the local authority used devolution fuel for its administration purposes and did not maintain a register, exposing the fuel to abuse.
“Devolution funds are meant to spearhead development in communities and as such the council is required to maintain separate records to ensure accountability.”
At least 8 109 litres meant for road maintenance were purchased using devolution funds, with Chiri insisting there was a risk of misappropriation of fuel.
He said there was also a risk of failure to meet devolution targets.
In its response, the local authority’s management said the fuel purchased using devolution funds was meant for road maintenance.
“A fuel reconciliation will be done and the fuel meant for devolution used for other administration functions will be reimbursed and redirected towards service delivery.”
In Redcliff in the Midlands province, the local authority has a murky fuel disbursement plan manned by an individual and Chiri said this was subject to manipulation and thousands of litres could be lost in the process.
“There was no segregation of duties as the procurement officer was responsible on the procurement and distribution of fuel. Fuel was distributed through the Trek card system which was administered by a procurement officer. The procurement officer had the rights to move fuel from one card to the other without the cardholder’s knowledge,” Chiri said.
She said the risk of this is financial loss due to fraud and recommended that the procurement and management of fuel be performed by separate individuals.
In Mwenezi, Chiri said the local authority was processing fuel benefits for heads of department outside the payroll and therefore not subjected to tax.