AUDITOR-General (AG) Mildred Chiri has revealed that there is lack of preparedness by most local authorities to provide fire and ambulance services with 72 of 92 councils not having these services.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Chiri raised the issue in a report tabled in the National Assembly recently by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on the preparedness in the provision of fire and ambulance services by local authorities under the Local Government ministry.

“A total of 71 out of 92 local authorities in the country had no fire and ambulance services (Civil Protection Department status reports 2014),” Chiri said.

“Two local authorities without fire and ambulance services revealed that they lacked financial resources to establish these services.”

However, all the seven cities and nine municipalities in the country have these services, while only three out of 11 town councils, one out of five local boards, and only one out of 60 rural district councils offered ambulance and fire services.

“The City of Bulawayo was relying on donations for fire and ambulance equipment. My visit to 13 local authorities revealed that 11 of them were still using old by-laws of 1968 which did not contain modern buildings fire standard requirements because the Local Government ministry was still to approve amended fire by-laws,” the report said.

The ministry told Chiri that the major challenge was the high costs of equipment and little revenue being generated by local authorities.

Local authorities were also failing to do routine inspection of new and existing buildings resulting in hospitals and learning institutions being at high risk of fire disasters, as they had virtually no fire-fighting equipment and no inspections were done.

The City of Harare had an estimated 400 000 buildings, but inspections were carried out in only 5 053 buildings. Bulawayo had 154 375 buildings, yet only 227 were inspected, and out of 38 000 buildings in Mutare and Gweru combined, none of them were inspected.

“For Harare, they had last done a blitz report of routine inspections in 2012 for 10 existing buildings which were all condemned as unsafe for occupation. During my inspection of 20 existing buildings in Harare, I discovered that no routine inspections were done and all were not prepared for fire disasters as they had inadequate fire-fighting equipment,” she said.

Out of 15 buildings inspected in Bulawayo, nine were not prepared for fire disasters, and out of 14 buildings inspected in Gweru and Mutare, only four were prepared for fire disasters, while in Victoria Falls out of the seven buildings inspected, only one was prepared for fire disasters.