Major councils owed $1bn in unpaid bills

Source: Major councils owed $1bn in unpaid bills | The Herald July 6, 2017

Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter—
Major local authorities are owed over $1 billion in unpaid bills by residents, Government, industry and commerce, a situation partly to blame for poor service delivery by most councils. Some local authorities are reportedly failing to collect refuse and provide other basic services and to pay salaries. Residents, commerce and industry are said to be the biggest culprits.

Harare finance director Mr Tendai Kwenda said Harare was owed over $658 million and the city was using various strategies including evictions of those leasing council properties as well as issuing summons against defaulters in an attempt to recover its dues.

The city, armed with court orders, is in the process of evicting defaulting tenants over debts amounting to more than $10 million in Highfield and Glen Norah.

Residents owe council $256 347 608, 85, industrial/commercial clients $287 221 637, 87, Chitungwiza $8 069 307,88, Norton $89 562, 02 and Epworth $10 023,89.

“We have employed various strategies to recover the money we are owed. We have availed easier bill payments with various banks including Ecocash, One Wallet and Telecash. We are entering into debt set off arrangements with larger organisations like Government debts with Zimra indebtedness, NetOne with council bills, Zimphos rates for water chemicals, Local Authorities Pension Fund set off with retired personnel pension,” he said.

The city says it hired private debt collectors – Wellcash debt collectors – who were efficient but their operations were frustrated by pressure groups.

Mr Kwenda said the city was establishing additional rates and water payment points to cater for the growth of the district areas as well as plugging leakages at revenue collection centres through automated RTGS computerised system and installed computerised receipting machines, among other strategies.

Bulawayo Mayor Martin Moyo said council was owed more than $150 million by residents, Government and business.

“We are engaging our residents because the revenue we are getting is declining. We are encouraging our residents to enter into payment plans but sometimes we are forced to disconnect water supplies,” he said.

Mutare Mayor Mr Tatenda Nhamarare said council was now resorting to debt collectors as it was owed more than $41 million.

“Debts, as at March 31, amounted to $41 683 786,14. Industry owed $3 509 580, 09, commercial $6 746 513, 68 and residents in the various suburbs owe the remainder,” he said.

Chitungwiza ratepayers owe the local authority close to $60 million in unpaid rates and bills as of June 21, 2017.

Commercial and industrial debtors owe $24, 092, 061 while residents owe council $34, 866, 074.

Masvingo Mayor Hubert Fidze said ratepayers and Government owed the city more than $42 million.

“We are encouraging ratepayers to enter into payment plans. We are getting 60 to 70 percent of what we bill. We are using debt collectors in some instances for the business community,” he said.

The Kwekwe Mayor Tatenda Madzoke said council was owed over $30 million by Government, residents and business.

“We are now requesting our senior employees, including directors, to chase up debts. We are collecting less than 50 percent of what we bill, a situation which is affecting service delivery,” he said.

He said under normal circumstances, council collected more than $2 million but it was now getting between $700 000 and $1 million on a good month.

As of May this year, Gweru City Council was owed more than $52 million by ratepayers.

COMMENTS

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    BARAMANZA 5 years ago

    There is need for an aggressive debt collection through water disconnections and encouraging ratepayers to complete DEBT SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FORMS (DSA).We know rate payers have the potential to pay their bills considering that on a daily basis ratepayers are able to buy air time or buy bottled water. Ratepayers need to be concertized that for them to get quality services rates need to be paid to council. Local authorities should set up a DEBT Collection team specifically meant to collect council revenue. Policy makers need also to play their role by educating their electorate in their wards than to spend a lot of time arguing in chambers or concentrating on how they can get stands or travel to enrich their pockets There should be no interference when it comes to debt collection