Zimbabwe local councils operating unapproved budgets, say reports

18 Aug 16

Many of Zimbabwe’s local councils continue to operate budgets rejected by central government for allocating too much cash to salaries, according to an investigation by the country’s Financial Gazette.


A view of Mutare, the fourth-biggest city in Zimbabwe.

A view of Mutare, the fourth-biggest city in Zimbabwe. An investigation has revealed the city council is still devoting the lions share of its revenues to wages, while public services suffer.


Budget proposals from 26 out of 32 urban councils in the cash-strapped country were rejected by the central government in February for failing to comply with a government directive to allocate 70% of their revenue toward service delivery, and cap wage bills at 30%.

Out of the 26, 18 were told to revise their figures while the rest were rejected outright. But the Financial Gazette’s investigation found that 14 councils are still operating on unapproved budgets.

Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing George Mlilo issued a ministerial directive stipulating the 70:30 spending ratio, following accusations that as much as 90% of revenues in some local authorities were being spent on salaries.

In 2014, a scandal known as ‘Salarygate’ revealed that wages for bosses at some state-owned enterprises and other public entities were exorbitantly high. It left Zimbabweans appalled and put further pressure on government to regulate the salaries of public officials.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Zimbabwe’s government still has one of the highest wage bills in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 82% of all expenditure in 2015.

The Financial Gazette highlighted the spending of Zimbabwe’s fourth-largest city Mutare, in the country’s east. Mutare’s city council reportedly devotes 92% of its monthly revenue to employment costs, while residents are left without basic services like refuse collection.

According to the newspaper, Mutare pumps $3.4m into salaries, in-kind perks and administrative costs, out of its average monthly collection of $4.6m.  

Local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere is reported to have dubbed Mutare a “problem child”.

“Mutare council is a problem, but we are not facing the same challenges with other authorities. Others are doing quite okay,” he stated.

Other councils, such as that of Zimbabwe’s second-largest city Bulawayo, told the gazette they had complied with the order but are yet to receive budget approval from the government.

Many local authorities also owe workers huge sums in salary arrears, leading to a number of protests and strikes by local civil servants.

Earlier this week, Bernard Manyenyeni, mayor of the capital Harare and president of the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe, agreed that most councils across the country were struggling to provide basic services.

However, he cited huge debts owed to councils by high earners in government, other public entities and business.

Harare City Council is reportedly owed $405m in unpaid bills, while Bulawayo City Council is due in excess of $117m.

Years of economic decline, compounded by months of drought this year, have left Zimbabwe in the midst of an economic crisis.

Citizens across the country recently staged a nation-wide ‘shut down’, opting to stay at home to protest against corruption and chronic cash shortages.

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