Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council has been accused of directing a huge chunk of its resources towards salaries and administration costs at the expense of service delivery and further trying to force their flawed budget projections to residents.
Last month council proposed a supplementary budget of $550 792 328 and a 2021 annual budget of $16 billion, with residents having until Wednesday to table their objections to the two figures. However, a financial and audit expert Mr Ntokozo Tshuma has blasted the local authority for coming up with a budget which directs most of its resources towards salaries and administrative costs.
Mr Tshuma was speaking during a social dialogue on rates non-payment, organised by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) on Thursday last week. He said while the local authority was claiming that just 30 percent of its revenue generated will go towards salaries with 70 percent going to service delivery, the reality was that a huge chunk of the budget would be going towards salaries and administration costs.
“Several stakeholders have testified to the fact that there has been a general decline in municipal service delivery and capital development in local authority governed areas. Key to the complaints raised has been the ratio of salaries to service delivery, which according to Government policy should be within the range 70 percent service delivery is to 30 percent salaries.
“In 2020 from January to July 2020, the total salary bill has been 47 percent, which is $262 million of the revenue generated- $556,5 million- yet the projected budget was at 27 percent. Is the council only sticking to the 70 percent is to 30 percent rule on paper just as a bargaining tool to get residents to ratify their budget when actual performance proves otherwise?” asked Mr Tshuma.
According to the 2021 budget projections six percent, $338,2 million of the 30 total salaries of $1,58 billion goes towards paying administration salaries, 12 percent ($619,6 million) towards health, four percent ($202,4 million) towards protection, four percent ($217 million) towards works and one percent of each towards education and sewerage services.
Mr Tshuma said past trends clearly showed that the local authority never adhered to the budget projections when it pertained to salaries, usually flouting the Government stipulated ratio.
“In 2016 the total salary bill constituted 50,8 percent of the total revenue, in 2017 the total salary bill was 50 percent of the revenue generated,” he said.
The financial and audit expert said it made no sense that even in the contentious issue of water delivery, the local authority was seen directing a huge chunk of money towards administration.
“Too much money is diverted to the administrative functions instead of actual services on the ground, imagine 89,1 percent of the housing services budget going towards administrative functions instead of the actual housing services function, are our priorities okay as a city.
“The budget proposes to spend $822,1 million on water services of which $221,8 million will go towards water administration against an anticipated revenue of $1,36 billion. 27 percent of the budgeted water services expense relates to administration expenses,” said Mr Tshuma.
He said there was a need for the local authority to identify new revenue streams so as to supplement their income rather than wholesomely relying on rates and rentals.
“There is need for the diversification of revenues, for instance having council farms contributing towards the local authority’s purse, township tourism, reclaiming back Bulawayo Power Station and generating own power which is then sold to residents.
“The local authority can also consider outsourcing council security services, which is a unit if commercialised can generate very good revenue for the local authority. Further, as more people move to the cities, more properties should be built to cater the increasing population. When more properties are built the tax base is larger and more revenue can be generated,” said Mr Tshuma.
The financial and audit expert said there was a need to pluck out revenue leakages noting that Bulawayo is losing a lot of its money through poor control and monitoring systems which fail to curb abuse of resources by its employees.
A couple of weeks ago residents demanded that the local authority avails a detailed financial statement for the year up to September 2020, among a host of other demands to enable them to fully appreciate the proposed 2020 supplementary budget and the 2021 budget.