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Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri has warned that urban councils are sitting on a health time bomb due to their over-reliance on donor funding for service delivery.
She said this in a Management of Sewerage System by Urban Local Authorities under the Local Government and Public Works audit report tabled recently before Parliament.
The audit report covered six of the 32 local authorities including Bulawayo and Harare, observing that about 99 percent of the sewerage infrastructure in local authorities needs to be rehabilitated.
Mrs Chiri warned that failure to effectively rehabilitate sewerage infrastructure increases the risks of waterborne diseases.
The Auditor General noted with concern that local authorities were highly dependent on donors to rehabilitate critical infrastructure which can leave them exposed when funders leave.
“The over reliance on donor funding in the rehabilitation of the sewer reticulation system and treatment plants has severe consequences if the donors pull out.
‘‘The donor pull out would have a negative effective on the lives and the well-being of the citizens,” said the Auditor General.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is among the local authorities highly dependent on donor funds to rehabilitate water and sewerage infrastructure.
The Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to the tune of US$37 million.
BCC recently said an additional US$1,6 million is required to complete the project as it has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, funds the local authority does not have.
Bulawayo is dealing with a second diarrhoea outbreak within four months. The first one killed 13 people and infected more than 2 000 as the council battles to provide clean water to residents.
Mrs Chiri said in view of inability to effectively address sewerage problems affecting local authorities, Government should assist councils.
She said local authorities need modern equipment and adequate vehicles to attend to sewerage challenges.
“Urban local authorities should ensure that they procure online machines and equipment for inspections and maintenance of the sewer reticulation system so as to reduce the number of sewer blockages and waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
“There is need for the Central Government to be involved in the financing and ensuring that ongoing rehabilitation of sewer system is done properly to further improve sewerage management,” she said.
Mrs Chiri said poor sanitation as a result of failure to attend to sewerage infrastructure costs Government US$194 million.
“These figures reflect the adverse health effects associated with poor sanitation and water supply such as medical costs of treating cholera and typhoid and loss of productivity that results when individuals are sick and others have to care for them,” she said. chronicle