Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Harare Mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni has claimed that employment costs are the “big elephant” crippling council operations as even low level employees are paid two to five times more than their counterparts in similar jobs elsewhere, inflicting on the municipality a monthly salary bill of $10 million.
At a meeting with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Mayor Manyenyeni appealed to the Government to take over the salary bill as it was unsutatinable for the city. Permanent secretary Mr George Magosvongwe reportedly told him “there was no commitment to that”.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting at Town House recently, Mayor Manyenyeni said it was easy to appreciate executive costs with which people were familiar but said these constituted only 3 percent of council’s wage bill.
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“Just illustrations, which I believe are sustainable across the entire council payroll, I will indicate that a council municipal guard or patrolman costs the city $1 057 per month while a ZRP (officer) costs (Government) just $400 per month, which is 2,5 times higher,” he said.
“A council nursing sister costs the city $1 527 while a Government nursing sister (earns) just over $500, that is more than three times. A private clinic sister earns between $650 and $1 000. Other indications are that a council farm guard costs $907.”
He said a messenger costs council $520, a driver $899, heavy-duty driver $1 058 and a municipal sergeant $1 266. All this, he said, translates to nearly $10 million coming from between $12 million and $13 million collected.
He said the city had other obligations for overdue amounts which must be serviced at $6 million a month, including electricity costs of $1,2 million per month.
Mayor Manyenyeni said the salaries were granted by Government in 2013 and the costs of the overpayments ranged from $3 million to $7 million or $150 million to $350 million for the past 50 months.
“Political will to fix this has been missing because the two main political parties represented in council have very strong labour backing. In 2014 I challenged management to secure a more trusted payroll system as ours suffers sustained mistrust,” he said.
“They got angry and reported me to (former) Minister (Ignatius) Chombo to have my knuckles rapped. Three years later, we still have an in-house payroll which no one outside council will ever trust,” he said.
Mayor Manyenyeni said he had suspended Acting Town Clerk Mrs Josephine Ncube and three other directors following a tribunal finding and that he was set to appoint a disciplinary committee to handle the matter.
“I had a meeting with the Ministry (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing), at which the ministry expressed its desire to see the matter concluded with speed.”
He said he had suggested that Government takes over the salary payments for two to three years while the city recovers from its financial mess.
“The ministry found the suggestion to be different and they will examine it for merit,” he said.