City targets institutions in debt collection

29 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
City targets institutions in debt collection Town House

Suburban

THE City of Harare says it is targeting institutions owing it money in its debt collection drive and will also consider blacklisting those who fail to pay up. 

Diana Nherera Suburban Reporter

Council officials at a recent Ward 7 service delivery meeting held at MacDonald Swimming Pool in Avondale told residents that at least 66 percent of the capital city’s ratepayers are not paying their bills.

Residents then asked the officials what the municipality was doing to recover the outstanding debts which keep ballooning each year.

And revenue officer for Mt Pleasant, who also covers Avondale, Mr Ellison Muchenje said they are sending summons to those who were defaulting paying their rates and service charges.

“We are at the moment targeting institutions which are not paying — that is banks, sports clubs and other companies.

“We are sending summons to those that are not paying and we are even going as far as blacklisting their companies,” said Mr Muchenje.

A resident from Avondale and chairperson of the Ward 7 Ratepayers and Residents Association Mrs Carole Pearce reported that  residents from the ward are furious over the highest debtors in their ward.  

“We have heard for the past six years that the outstanding debtors will be chased and made to pay.

“We understand from our ward they are mainly institutions or companies of some sort who haven’t paid in Avondale for six years.

“And people resent the fact that they (the institutional ratepayers) haven’t paid and we are paying.

“Unless we understand how these people are going to be made to pay, you will never have the backing of this ward,” she said. 

Harare Mayor Councillor Jacob Mafume, who also attended the service delivery meeting, said names of the concerned debtors will be published. 

“I will publish all of those owing council.

“If you are going to take the bulk of our water, as an institution, the residents have to know.

“You allow other people to pay for your water, you use it and you don’t give back, that’s criminal.

“We will advertise them,” he said. 

Cllr Mafume said the city might need to adopt a prepaid water system beginning on a voluntary basis and piggy bank all the bills on that.

“The theory is if you have a prepaid water system, you are then able to have an assured revenue collection.

“Once you have an assured revenue collection, you can then invest back into the system and reduce non-revenue water,” he said. 

Residents also complained over council’s shambolic billing system in which the municipality relies on estimates instead of sending meter readers, in the case of water charges, to accurately bill ratepayers. 

Residents said estimates meant that they would end up paying more even when some of them go for long periods without council tap water.

They also complained that there is no reconciliation of the payments they would have made.

 A Kensington ratepayer who spoke at the meeting said he doesn’t think the 33 percent of paid-up ratepayers is the actual figure.

“Every month I pay then I receive a bill from City of Harare that says I owe $120 000.

“When I do my calculations, I find that I have paid $140 000 and you are threatening to sue.

“Then I say reconcile my payments with what you are demanding as I have paid more.

“I have sent you a figure that I didn’t owe you and you don’t do anything,” he said.

Another Ward 7 ratepayer said he pays his council bills at Belvedere district office where they give manual receipts when their system is down.

“When you pay, make sure you have donated.

“That money is never entered on your records.

“When the bill surprises you after six or so months, that money won’t appear. 

“And you ask for historical information, they want you to pay. 

“I was asked to pay about $200 000 and when I went to Rowan Martin (council’s revenue headquarters), I was actually insulted.

“They said ‘why do you go to Belvedere, don’t you know that there is no electricity there?’” he said.

Cllr Mafume promised to solve the problem soon by adopting an effective data management system.

“If we can’t centralise, why don’t we compactualise. I was thinking as you were talking that if the centre cannot manage, why don’t we create ecosystems for every district that is then manageable at that district and then you have the data of what you remit to the centre and what remains at the district. 

“So we have heard the issue around finances. It’s something that I will seek to solve in the shortest possible time, starting with the adoption of a system that allows us to interact with our data in a meaningful and proactive manner.”

 A Kensington ratepayer who spoke at the meeting said he doesn’t think the 33 percent of paid-up ratepayers is the actual figure.

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