Local Government and Housing Minister Vincent Mwale says it is unacceptable for councils to depend on government grants to pay salaries to their workers and finance their operations.

And Mwale says he has signed a statutory instrument which will create a Bus Station and Market fund with the view of collecting levies from the users.

Speaking in Kabwe during the official opening of an intra-bus station built at a total cost of K4.7 million on Tuesday, Mwale said councils must think outside the box to find means and ways of raising their own money to finance their operations.

He said he had noted with concern that some Local Authorities were dependent on the Equalization Fund from Central Government to sustain their programmes.

“I have seen and noted with concern that some councils depend on the Equalization Fund for their salaries. We don’t want them to keep depending on Central Government. This is unacceptable. Councils must begin to think outside the box to finance their own operations; because this grant they receive is not meant for salaries but for
development,’’ Mwale said.

Mwale said he was concerned that councils may fall back to the olden days, where workers would go for months without being paid, if they don’t begin to be innovative.

He reiterated that government was aware of the challenges that local authorities are going through and had since increased the allocation of the Equalization Fund for 2018.

“We want to innovation in the councils. We don’t want councils to go back to the olden days when they were highly indebted that they could not even pay their workers. Some even went up to 22 months without salaries. We don’t want this to happen. So as government we have increased the Equalization Fund in next year’s budget from K887 million to about K1.1 billion,” he said.

And Mwale disclosed that he has signed a statutory instrument which would create a Bus Station and Market Fund with the view of collecting levies from the users.

“As a Ministry we have established a Bus station and Market Fund. We have finished all the processes. This Fund has been created with the view of getting levies from all the users throughout the country. Whatever the council will collect, they will share a bit of that money with the Ministry. Then the same money will be reinvested in upgrading
and building new bus stations and markets. What we would like to see is a Fund that is earmarked for this purpose. This is a municipal service that has been neglected for some time. We would like to see that every district has a modern bus station and market,” said Mwale.

“When you look at the transit bus stations that we have, the sanitary conditions are terrible. These are things we want to change as Local Government through this fund. This, just like the toll gates, where the road users are paying and the same money is being reinvested to improve the roads; is the same thing that we would like to see happen in the area of bus stations and markets.”