GWERU – The cash-strapped Gweru City Council has set aside more than $1,7 million to buy top-of-the-range luxury vehicles and department utility vehicles for senior council executives in its proposed 2019 budget.

In the proposed $44 million budget outlined in a thematic committees statement seen by ZimLive, top executives will gobble more than a third of the $1,7 million, with the City’s Mayor Josiah Makombe in line to receive a Mercedes Benz C-Class at a cost of $150,000.

The municipality’s six departmental heads, who include Town Clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza, Finance Director Edgar Mwedzi, Director of Housing Shingirai Tigere, Chamber Secretary Vakai Chikwekwe, Health Director Samson Sekenhamo and City Engineer Robson Manatsa are set to receive 4×4 SUVs at a cost of $85,000 each while the city police will get one vehicle at a cost $50,000 if the budget is approved.

This comes as the city is drowning in a $60 million debt that is accumulating on a monthly basis. Rate payer apathy also means the city is struggling to collect $50 million owed by residents.

Gweru Residents and Rate Payers Association president Cornelia Selipiwe condemned the extravagant vehicle budget proposal, saying the city cannot afford such luxuries at the time.

“Things are tight, we have plenty of real service delivery issues that need the city’s attention. We can’t be found doing such when the city is suffering financially. We think the mayor needs advice because this doesn’t work,” said Selipiwe.

Other departments to receive expensive vehicles for administrators and management include the sewer section which will get four vehicles at $50,000 each; the water section with three vehicles at the same price each and health administration with four EG Ford Bantams at $37,500 each.

The Finance Department will get three other unspecified cars at $40,000 each and the housing department will also be allocated three NP300 utility vehicles at the same cost each.

The city’s fire services department will only receive one administrative vehicle at a cost of $30,000. The laboratory services will get one vehicle at $50,000.

Engineering services department will be getting a $60,000 vehicle while land surveying will receive a 4×4 SUV at $100,000 and two pickup trucks at $75,000 each.

Of the thematic committees that were set up by the local authority to consult and propose the resources needed, only the health services committee proposal is below the $1 million mark while the road, city lighting and town planning committee takes more than half of the proposed budget.

The Housing Committee proposed $2,8 million; Health $646,000; Solid Waste Management $2,9 million; Emergency Services (Fire and Ambulance) $1,3 million; Water and Sewer $7,5 million; Roads/City Lighting and Town Planning $26,2 million and Governance and Administration $2,6 million.

The budget making process, according to City spokesman Manford Gambiza, should be completed by November 14 before being sent for approval by the Minister of Local Government.