By Kenneth Matimaire
Mutare, August 09, 2016 – FORMER Mutare mayor, Brian James says the troubled local authority was still capable of trimming its giant wage bill which recently short to an unprecedented 92 percent of the city’s revenue base.
Government has decreed a 30/70 percent threshold that should see local authorities spending 30 percent on wages while the bulk of revenue collected through rate payments is channelled towards service delivery.
But the city has failed to tame its skyrocketing wage bill which has gone up to 92 percent, leaving a paltry 8 percent to cater for service delivery as at April 30 this year.
This is despite the fact that the authority presented a budget that fitted into the approved threshold in February after government rejected the initial budget.
However, former mayor James feels the city still had capacity to meet government’s 30/70 percent threshold in favour of service delivery by 2018 if council adheres to a five point plan restructuring exercise.
James argued that Mutare City can still reach a reasonable 40/45 percent or 60/65 percent service delivery-salary costs ratio by next year while the 30/70 ratio target will be met in 2018.
“It is my opinion that for the 2017 budget Council can achieve a ratio of 40-45/60-55 and with better financial discipline and reach the target 30/70 the following year,” he said.
“In order to do this, firstly, the debtors list must be independently analysed. Secondly, the labour force be reduced to around 950 and their payment/benefit levels restructured. I know there are ghost workers and others that do not justify their positions.”
The local authority also claims to have 1,501 employees, which comprises of 1,188 permanent workers, 250 contract workers and 63 students but a head count indicated that they have 1,417 workers.
Its current debtors list stands at $32 million where the industrial sector owes council $5,7 million, town residential site owes $7,9 million, Sakubva owes $4,9 million, Dangamvura $4,7 million, Chikanga $4,4 million, Hobhouse $1,5 million and $2,7 for commercial areas.
James went on to indicate that the local authority make full disclosures of its financial flows at Pungwe Breweries, introduce a tight water loss exercise and limit political interference.
“Council has to make full disclosure on Pungwe Breweries profit/loss accounts and staff levels. They also have to reduce political interference that is not beneficial to the city as a whole and lastly they need to reintroduce a water loss exercises to tighten revenue and ascertain vulnerable low income groups,” said James.
The local authority has been under immense pressure from Dangamvura-Chikanga constituency legislator Esau Mupfumi and Provincial Affairs Minister Mandi Chimene who has declared herself the defacto boss at Civic Centre.