HARARE – The move by Finance minister Tendai Biti to strip councils of procurement powers will result in disease outbreaks, Harare councillors have warned.
Biti last month issued a directive to all local authorities instructing them to stop procuring goods without first approaching the state procurement board.
Harare councillors, the majority from the MDC have now taken aim at Biti, describing his move as “the worst form of dictatorship and abuse of power”.
They accused Biti, the MDC secretary-general, of usurping their powers by taking procurement issues from them and giving it to a state arm.
“This is the worst form of dictatorship coming from our central government. It is abuse of power. As councillors we are ready to be fired for defying this retrogressive directive,” said Peter Moyo, an MDC councillor for Rugare suburb.
A statutory instrument promulgated by Vice President Joice Mujuru after consulting Biti stated all local authorities have been included on the list of entities on whose behalf the state procurement board shall conduct buying procedures.
But, councillors are not letting the matter go unchallenged.
“In 2000, government took over water management from council, in 2009 they took vehicle licensing from us and now it is procurement. Not this time again, Uku ndiko kunonzi kudya zvevapfupi nekureba (They are using muscle to undermine us because we are weak),” said Moyo.
Councillors said the statutory instrument is in contradiction of the Urban Councils Act, which states that all local authorities are procuring entities.
The local authority agreed to engage Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to resolve the matter.
“This is what we call madness, the problem we have with people who have never been councillors, they believe they are correct in everything they do.
“We suspect this move was politically-motivated. It was crafted in a way which would discredit councillors in the eyes of residents,” said another councillor Herbert Gomba.
“When we have a cholera outbreak, people will not go and attack minister Biti’s office. They will blame us,” said Glen Norah councillor Herbert Gomba.
In the past, local authorities have been procuring goods and services through a local tender board made up of councillors.
Allegations of corruption and kickbacks have tainted the system, forcing central government to seize the responsibility from council.