BRE interfering in running Lukulu council
THE Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) has been accused of interfering in the operations of Lukulu District Council, resulting in the loss of over K2 billion.
Lukulu District Council secretary Friday Zimba alleges that the BRE has taken over the running of Lukulu market and the collection of fish levy from fishermen, a situation which has resulted in the council’s failure to pay its workers for 52 months.
This came to light in Lusaka on Monday when Mr Zimba and council treasurer Isaac Kang’ombe appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Local Governance, Housing and Chiefs’ Affairs to answer audit queries cited in the 2009 Local Government report.
Mr Zimba said the council owes workers over K2 billion in salary arrears accumulated over the past 52 months.
He said the council is struggling to pay workers because the BRE has taken over Lukulu market where it is collecting fees and fish levy which the council could use to pay the workers.
Mr Zimba said the council’s revenue collection base has gone down because the BRE has taken over some of the areas from which it was collecting revenue to pay the workers.
He said the council is only collecting less than K8 million per month against the local authority’s wage bill of K87 million.
“We have outstanding salary arrears of over 52 months (over four years) and this is because we are collecting far less than our normal wage bill.
“We owe our workers about K2.7 billion and this is because the BRE has taken over the running of the market, which is making it difficult for us to survive,” Mr Zimba said.
He said the council is only surviving on the K125 million grants it is receiving quarterly from the government.
He also said the council is failing to meet statutory obligations to the National Pensions Scheme Authority and the Local Authority Superannuation Fund, due to financial constraints it is facing.
But committee chairperson Edgar Sing’ombe wondered why the BRE has been allowed to start interfering in the operations of the council.
Mr Sing’ombe, who is Dundumwezi UPND member of Parliament (MP), said it is sad that the BRE has been allowed to collect fees from marketeers, leading to the underperformance of the council.
He said Government should quickly address the challenges the council is facing to help improve its operations.
Mr Sing’ombe said the council is failing to improve service delivery because Government has not intervened in this matter.
Meanwhile, Vubwi MMD MP Eustarkio Kazonga has urged Government to employ qualified personnel in all local authorities across the country.
Dr Kazonga said councils are failing to provide services because of ill-qualified staff occupying senior positions.