BY SILAS NKALA
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is owed over ZWL$59,5 million by companies that have since closed shop in the city, a council report on debt management has revealed.
“There were 136 accounts for properties owned by closed companies that were billed ZWL$7 020 124,64, and they owed ZWL$59 587 184,87 as at 31 March 2022. Most parastatals were not servicing their accounts,” the report read in part.
Council said government ministries, especially the Ministries of Home Affairs and Defence paid their accounts once a year.
“EcoCash text files at times did not meet the requirements that enabled us to upload the files such as duplication of receipt numbers,” further read the report, which also stated that as way back as September 2019, council’s financial director Kempton Ndimande suggested some strategies to enhance debt management.
“Implementation of the strategies was pencilled for November 2019. It was delayed by the roll out of the credit control and debt management policy and the COVID-19-induced lockdowns,” the report read.
“An acting accounting manager (debt unit) was appointed in June 2021, contract labourers were engaged to increase the disconnection teams to 18 in September 2021. Nine interns were engaged as customer liaison officers in February 2022 and two have left. Debt management was decentralised to district offices in February 2022 and five senior clerical assistants were redeployed from Revenue Hall to district offices.”
Council said it had also engaged services of supermarkets and spares shops to provide online payment platforms for its bills through Paynow, E-Solutions, CBZ Bank, FBC Bank and ZB Bank.
The local authority noted that 87 top corporates serviced their accounts monthly and required fiscal e-bills on a relationship basis.
“Collection against billing efficiency improved from 30% in January 2022 to 59% in March,” the report added.
“On the billing and correction of anomalies, it is noted that council had 178 223 active consumer accounts in its database split as follows: 162 158 domestic, 11 794 commercial, 4 182 industrial, and 89 peri-urban.
“There were 134 319 metered water connections throughout the city. Water meters were not read for 16 months from March 2020 to June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and human resource challenges,” the report indicates.
Council said it only had 33 meter readers who take 28-30 days to read all the city’s meters, while 24 meter readers were on a contract basis.
“Over and under-estimated meter readings resulted in high bills which needed adjustment. A report has been submitted to council in September 2021 seeking authority to adjust the high bills. This exercise was expected to be completed by end of February 2022. However, this was not achieved due to a high number of accounts requiring adjustments and human resource challenges,” the report added.
As at April 2022, the city was owed $5,5 billion in bills, with residents accounting for 62% of the debt.
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