Editor's Comment

Emulate Sampa on cost saving

Lusaka, Zambia: Lusaka City Council - Civic Centre - Independence Avenue - photo by M.Torres

THE directive by His worship the Mayor of Lusaka Miles Sampa to the local authority’s finance director to stop spending money on snacks for all management meetings to save money is progressive and deserves commendation.
The decision is certainly a step in the right direction and necessary to help the council come out of its financial doldrums.
A letter dated April 1, 2019, addressed to Lusaka City Council finance director Bestone Kajoba from Mr Sampa states:
“Please cut out or stop spending any money on snacks like chicken or sausage pieces, meat pies, samosas, fruits and several types of biscuits for all management or any meetings that I attend or chair,” he said.
Mr Sampa is concerned, and rightly so, that despite some of the meetings taking place at 14:00 hours just after lunch, snacks such as beef strips, meat pies and others are served.
It is certainly wastefulness and irresponsibility of the highest kind for a council that is struggling to pay salaries to be spending money lavishly and on non-important things.
As things stand, the council is highly burdened as workers are owed months’ worth salaries. At such a time, the council needs to exercise maximum prudence in managing its limited resources.
It is good that the mayor has also directed that any budgetary cash allocation to his office to buy refreshments be stopped.
“I anticipate those coming for business meetings at my office to have had a meal or snacks by the time they arrive for scheduled or unscheduled meetings,” he said.
The mayor is ready to foot the bill in case of lunch hour meetings.
This is certainly encouraging and a sure demonstration of responsible and selfless leadership.
The mayor, who has been in the limelight for controversial pronouncements such as a directive to demolish the Hybrid chicken statue, surely deserves to be applauded by all on this one.
We do not expect any right thinking individual to condemn such a progressive move.
The step taken by Mr Sampa though not sufficient to end the Council’s financial woos, will no doubt go a long way in helping ease the financial pressure.
For instance, Mr Sampa has indicated that if the cost-saving measures are implemented, the council will save at least K20, 000 which can be channelled towards salaries and other requirements.
While K20,000 may not be enough to solve all the problems at the council, certainly some of them will be attended to and that’s already a step in the right direction.
As rightly pointed out by His Worship, business or work meetings are supposed to be short and straight to the point.
The culture of combining work and banquets is counter-productive as it takes away from concentration and prolongs meetings unnecessarily.
When there is food in a meeting, people tend to be more relaxed thereby losing the urgency of time.
This means the council was losing more than the money spent on snacks.
Needless to say, it does not inspire confidence in the workers to see their bosses spending lavishly on snacks when they cannot honour salary obligations.
It is good that the mayor has put an end to this. What is even more heartening is that the mayor is cognisant of the need to do more for greater impact.
This is why he has further directed Mr Kajoba to come up with five other immediate petty cash and sundry payment cost-cutting suggestions and measures within 14 days.
The council needs to critically interrogate its expenditure in all areas and see where it can make further cuts.
The council should go a step further by finding innovative ways of making money to supplement the Equalisation Fund, which has proved insufficient owing to the many demands.
The Lusaka Mayor has set a good precedent, which should be emulated by other councils and municipalities across the country.
It is hoped that more councils will come up with both cost-cutting measures and innovative income generating activities.
This is the only way our councils become financially viable.

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