Billing system circus has gone on for far too long

26 May, 2023 - 00:05 0 Views


The circus surrounding the acquisition of a new billing system at the City of Harare needs to be put to a stop and save ratepayers from such nauseating conduct by the mandarins at Town House.

Since 2019, Harare has been operating without a billing system after abandoning the BIQ system following a misunderstanding with its South African suppliers, Quill Associates.

The acquisition of a new billing system has dragged on since then with the council officials who run the municipality’s day to day operations and the councillors – who are the policymakers and play an oversight role on the management – dithering endlessly.  

Reports that city officials are engaging in a shadowy process to buy a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system at an inflated cost of US$57 million make sad reading indeed. What crime has Harare residents committed to deserve this appalling level of neglect of duty by council officials and councillors? 

It honestly beats any level of reasoning why the capital city has spent four years failing to replace an accounting software. It does not need emphasis that billing is at the centre of any local authority’s operations to be enable it to accurately bill its ratepayers and facilitate the collection of revenue which is the lifeline of an organisation of the magnitude of the City of Harare.

What is so difficult in doing the right things at Town House, we wonder? We welcome the Harare Metropolitan Province’s Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mr Tafadzwa Muguti’s call for an immediate probe into the never ending saga of buying a new billing system for Harare.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission also says it is now seized with the matter as confirmed by the commission’s spokesperson Commissioner Thandiwe Malobane to ZBC this week.

Residents have been complaining that the city is using estimates to bill them for water and also charges them exorbitant fees for services which are not rendered at all. Most households in Harare struggle to access council tap water while refuse collection is so pathetic, the capital city has been turned into one big dumping ground.

It is also baffling why Harare is not adopting the Harare Institute of Technology-developed Local Authorities Digital Systems (LADS). Mutare has reportedly improved its revenue collection significantly using the LADS. Government has urged Harare to adopt LADS to no avail.

Are the Harare officials so untouchable they cannot be taken to task on why they are not heeding advice to make use of a locally developed system and save money? It will be interesting to find out where these officials derive the audacity to act in the manner they do. 

Their behaviour, in a way, confirms suspicions that they are bent on manipulating the procurement system to corruptly benefit from the process.  That could be the only plausible explanation to this debacle. The Auditor General unearthed unaccounted funds running into US$200 million and made recommendations which the city officials have defied to this day.

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