Under fire Epworth Local Board secretary suspended

EPWORTH Local Board (ELB) secretary Wilton Mhanda has been suspended for insubordination after he approved salaries for the public entity’s employees without the approval of council, Zim Morning Post has been informed.

Mhanda was suspended on Monday without salary and benefits.

The secretary is now expected to appear for a disciplinary hearing before Batanai Masunda and the Epworth Local Board next week.

“I can confirm that the secretary has been suspended after councillors met to discuss the allegations levelled against him,” Masunda told Zim Morning Post.

Asked on the charges against Mhanda, Masunda said it was premature to discuss the matter with the media although there were issues of misconduct and abuse of office.

“I cannot say he is guilty until his case has been proven by the disciplinary committee that will be set by the council next week. If cleared of any wrong doing, he will be back at work,” Masunda said.

He said the suspension was done to allow for further investigations and avoid interfering with witnesses.

A source told Zim Morning Post that Mhanda had been running the ELB without consulting councillors and other directors as prescribed in the Urban Council Act.

“Since March, Mhanda has been evasive and holding full council meetings. Even after the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, he has avoided making decisions without authority,” a source told Zim Morning Post.

“Councillors have, on numerous occasions, requested for full council meetings but Mhanda has been reluctant to allow them.

“How can you run a council for a whole eight months without a single full council meeting,” one of the councillors said on condition of anonymity.

A former soldier in the Airforce of Zimbabwe, Mhanda is said to have unilaterally increased salaries without council approval.

“Mhanda is being accused of awarding salary increments to council employees, including himself without the approval of council,” the source said.

His salary is said to have increased from ZWL 22 000 to ZWL58 000 while the least paid employee in council is getting only ZWL7 000.

Residents associations in Epworth are up in arms with the council, accusing Mhanda of being corrupt and abusing his power as well as being incompetent.

Daniel Foya, the Director of Epworth Residents Development Association (ERDA), said the ELB was being run by incompetent people who have failed to bring a sustainable solution to the dormitory suburb.

“Epworth has been facing serious water challenges as the boreholes in the area continue to dry up, but the council has failed to put in place sustainable water solutions,” Foya told Zim Morning Post.

He further said funds were disappearing without trace and any efforts to get an audit report were being thwarted.

“On several occasions, we have requested a forensic audit but the secretary has never allowed one. When they carry out an internal audit, the findings are never made public. We have requested for the 2018 and 2019 audit report but the secretary has denied us access,” Foya added.

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