Over $200 000 vanishes from municipality

Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Correspondent
At least $200 000 meant for workers’ December salaries reportedly disappeared from Chitungwiza Municipality and officials are now trading accusations over the missing funds.

Finance director Mrs Evangelista Machona claims to have transferred about $800 000 into the salaries account in December, while the acting chamber secretary Mrs Mary Mukonyora claims only $637 000 was deposited.

Mrs Mukonyora is also the human resources manager.

According to the recent minutes of the finance committee, the municipality’s payroll is in shambles with no payroll system and the local authority is not aware of its liability in terms of leave days.

“Mrs Mukonyora stated that $675 000 was transferred into the salaries account and explained how the $637 000 was spent. She further pointed out that she wanted Mrs Machona to explain a figure of $800 000, which she had indicated as total salary cost for the month,” read the minutes.

“The acting chamber secretary Mrs Machona wanted it to be noted that for years, Chitungwiza Municipality did not have a payroll to talk about as people were not getting pay slips.

“The so-called payroll could not produce reports, and the municipality did not even know its liability in terms of leave days. In a nutshell, she said, the system was not functional.”

Council then recommended that a special finance meeting be convened in order to address the challenges.

The finance committee then stated that the payroll processing function should be moved from human resources to the finance department as finance committee members were failing to answer questions relating to employees payments and outstanding salary arrears.

The remarks were made after Mrs Machona failed to explain the variance of the money transferred into the salaries account.

The vice chairman of the finance committee, Councillor Charamba Mlambo insisted that human resources was only responsible for recruitment of labour and suggested that the finance department should assume the responsibility of processing of salaries.

In response, Mrs Machona said she was comfortable with the payroll being processed by the HR department as the staff had the expertise required for payroll management.

Other councillors concurred with Cllr Mlambo, who said there was need for system accountability in terms of how money was being used at council.

“The finance committee chairperson Cllr Musekiwa Ruzvidzo urged Mrs Mukonyora to compile and update salary arrears for individuals as some employees were being paid their salary arrears. Mr Musekiwa added that HR should exercise fairness when attending to employees with grievances in need of financial assistance through salary arrears and advised that only genuine cases be attended to,” read the minutes.

Mrs Mukonyora, however, said they were in the process of implementing a payroll system, which would improve payroll administration and management as employees were now getting pay slips and salary reports were now being generated and produced.

The Director of Urban Planning Services Mr Conrad Muchesa said finance reports should contain detailed information to avoid presentation of unconfirmed or contradicting figures.

As such, Mrs Mukonyora said, she was not against the idea of the finance department taking over salary responsibilities but, said the move was going to disrupt the implementation of the payroll system, which she said had taken too long due to lack of support and lack of funding for the exercise.

Recently, four Chitungwiza municipality managers reportedly siphoned more than $650 000 from the council through a suspicious slush fund account which the finance director claimed was for salaries. No arrests were made.

The committee then recommended that the payroll processing function be moved from HR to the finance department and that the matter be referred to full council for further deliberation and consideration.

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