Innocent Ruwende Municipal Reporter
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has come under fire from local authorities for garnishing the bulk of the $22 million that the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) disbursed to councils for routine road rehabilitation, maintenance and development.
The councils claim that most of the roads in the countryside and farming areas were not navigable and the garnishees were going to worsen the situation.
Speaking at the Association of Rural District Council of Zimbabwe Biennial Congress held in Harare last week, about 60 rural local authorities’ representatives complained that Zimra was not sparing councils’ road accounts that were garnished for failing to meet their statutory obligations.
The local authorities called on Zimra to spare the road funds and target other accounts.
Responding to the concerns, principal director in the Finance and Economic Development Ministry Mr Pfungwa Kunaka, however, said not all local authorities were affected by the garnishee orders, which he said were necessary.
“It is not all local authorities that had their accounts garnished. It (garnishee order) is not just applying to local authorities. Revenue collecting agencies are trying to make sure that revenue is collected. Zimra engages in a mutual way and given the current situation, Government needs to collect revenue.
“Garnishees are the last resort, its unfortunate Zinara funds have also been affected. Yes, we appreciate challenges that come with garnishees. We may not at this point lift garnishees. If we are going to lift enforcement provisions, we will see a challenge in collecting revenue. Exemptions might set the wrong precedent. We want to ask that we have to understand the use of garnishees,” he said.
The said garnishees may seem punitive but it was a tool used as last resort.
Rural Development, Promotion and Preservation of National Culture Minister, Cde Abednico Ncube, said the effects of the harsh economic environment had not spared local authorities.
“As noted earlier, you are now part of government of Zimbabwe. Accordingly, it is expected that all local authorities take deliberate and well thought out measures not only to build internal resilience, but also to assist the country to reverse the trend via-a-vis the growth of the economy.”
“In particular, steps need to be taken to eliminate leakages by strengthening internal controls, reduce employment and related costs, eliminate wasteful expenditure in every form and broadly to enhance organisational performance,” he said.
He urged local authorities to actively promote local economic development in their areas so as to create employment opportunities and facilitate economic empowerment.
Last year, Zinara increased allocation of money to local authorities by 312 percent to facilitate improved maintenance and rehabilitation of roads.
The roads administration authority is a statutory body empowered to collect road fees through toll fees, fuel levy, vehicle licences, and transit, abnormal and overload fees.
The local authorities receive part of the money and claim that Zimra’s return of the same funds back to Government was counter-productive.