Editorial comment: Protect civil service trust funds
It is trite that residential accommodation is increasingly becoming a human rights priority. In recognition of this fundamental issue, the Government of Zimbabwe, through its economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, intends to provide 300 000 housing units by 2018, a figure that will go a long in mitigating accommodation challenges Zimbabweans face.
It is therefore exciting that Government has come up with a special housing scheme to cater for civil servants as part of non-monetary incentives for this group of workers, some of whom earn salaries below the poverty datum line.
Reports this week that Government and civil servants had agreed to establish a Trust Fund that will administer contributions by workers towards a residential stands scheme are commendable.
Government pegged the stands at $4 per square meter to ensure affordability, with an additional dollar going towards administration. This figure is fairly reasonable in view of the fact that private developers charge up to $40 per square meter.
However, given the number of civil servants in the employ of Government yearning for accommodation, this scheme is likely to see huge amounts of money being mobilised and this could signal the beginning of yet another trouble from people always on the look out for opportunities to loot public funds.
This calls for measures to ring-fence the fund and ensure that workers’ money, to be deducted straight from the Salary Service Bureau, is specifically used for the housing project and not abused.
There is a need for the establishment of a body comprising morally upright Zimbabweans, among them retired judges, senior policemen and fund managers to help administer the fund and ensure Government workers are not prejudiced of their hard earned money.
The stands should be low cost, suitable for the construction of basic residential accommodation suitable for an average urban family.
We can’t rule the possibility of some unscrupulous officials already plotting how they can lay their hands on the money.
It is every Zimbabwean’s desire that a properly incentivised Government worker should be in a position to properly execute his or her constitutional mandate without demanding bribes from clients.
The incentives, we believe, will help mould a morally upright Government worker dedicated to execute national duty.
In as much as public servants deserve non-monetary incentives such as these low cost stands and houses, it is our humble submission that all Zimbabweans, including many in the private and the informal sectors need Government support in their endeavour to acquire descent accommodation.
Local authorities should also play ball by complementing Government’s efforts in providing low cost housing.
It is, however, regrettable that some local authority leaders have formed private companies that they award contracts to develop council land and sell stands to residents at exorbitant prices.
This has given rise to the scourge of land barons that have been fleecing people of their money. The corrupt schemes are characterised by exorbitant prices and double allocation of stands, among other shenanigans.
We demand that councils wrest back this key responsibility and the engineering and civil works departments start again servicing land before selling the stands to residents at reasonable prices.
This will restore sanity in local authorities where there is desperate need for properly planned housing with proper roads, water and other facilities such as recreation parks and other amenities.
Without Government and local authorities’ intervention in the provision of houses, we shall continue to have a proliferation of shacks as people seek to avoid extortionate rental accommodation.
It is therefore our hope that the coming of the Government’s civil servants housing scheme and the intervention of councils should bring sanity in the country’s housing delivery system.