EASTERN NEWS | Council must improve its accountability: Residents

MUTARE - City Council must audit its accounts, organise residents and create community feedback platforms in order to improve its accountability to residents which will mend the obtaining frosty relations with ratepayers.

United Mutare Residents and Rate Payers official Eddie Dube told a Transparency International social accountability meeting in the city recently that the local authority projects an image that it may be more accountable to central government through the Local Government minister than to residents who finance their operations.

Dube said the long period since the last audit was a serious breach of principles of accountability.

“I think largely the local authority, Mutare City Council has not been accountable to the public. You have an authority that is constantly collecting revenue and spending it to be accountable to the residents and from my knowledge the last … audit for Mutare City Council was in 2013 so we’re talking of four to five years of unaudited expenditure which is a serious breach of principles of accountability and transparency.

“In the better part you would realise that the town clerk and senior management are more answerable to the minister at the expense of the residents that they purport to be providing services,” he said.

Dube said relations between council and residents are often frosty due to suspicions that could easily be allayed by improved communication.

“There is need to improve communication on key developments in the city to strengthen the grounds of their claim to proper accountability and responsibility.

“There is a lot of suspicion and a disconnect between the supply side and demand side — that are fuelled by perceptions which are a result of poor accountability,
transparency and communication mechanisms,” he said.

Dube challenged councillors to ensure that they bridge relations between their constituency and council as elected representatives but there was need for proper communication with council to improve their understanding of council operations if they are to be effective in their engagements with those that elected them.

Dube said councillors should improve their conduct while the local authority should also improve the capacity of its public relations department to improve citizens’ appreciation of what council would be doing.

“As much as councillors are expected to play this conduit role, you would also expect a council that is collecting revenue from residents on a monthly basis to capacitate the public relations department to properly communicate with the residents — harness and disseminate key information.”

He, however, challenged the local authority to take the initiative in organising residents and not leave it to civic society organisations and pressure groups as well as set up and finance interface platforms with residents to enhance communication as part of good governance.

“I think one of the key roles of the local authority is to organise residents. They must  also put mechanisms in place to set up platforms and fund constant feedback meetings … I would say it’s currently neglecting one of its key functions by not providing such interface platforms in line with good governance practices,” Dube said. 

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