Harare’s shambolic billing persists

26 May, 2023 - 00:05 0 Views
Harare’s shambolic billing persists Town House officials are derailing the acquisition of a new billing system.


Suburban Reporter 

Revenue collection remains a challenge for the City of Harare as the municipality is still drudging from pillar to post in search of a billing system.

Harare’s revenue collection remains suppressed at 55 percent in March although this was an improvement from the collection efficiency of 48 percent in February.

The City of Harare realised total revenue inflows of ZWL$38,4 billion in the first three months of 2023 between January and March with the figure owed to the city growing to ZWL$123 billion in the first quarter of the year.

Mayor Jacob Mafume admitted when he presented the city’s end of the first quarter report at Town House last week that the city is still toiling to have a functional billing system in place.

“The performance of our city is largely attributed to our financial health. We have a serious problem of lack of a fully functional ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning system) which affects revenue collection and financial management. 

‘‘We still do not have a fully integrated ERP and the Executive is tasked to bring this matter to finality,” Mayor Mafume told stakeholders who gathered at Town House to listen to his presentation.

An ERP system refers to a type of software that organisations use to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management, and compliance and supply chain operations. A complete ERP system also includes enterprise performance management, software that helps plan, budget, predict, and report on an organisation’s financial status. 

The acquisition of a new billing system has been bogged down in numerous bureaucratic bottlenecks and officials’ attempts to corruptly benefit from the tender to buy the new billing system.

Last year, a special council meeting heard that a total of 18 Town House officials had schemed a foreign jaunt to South Africa and China earn themselves foreign currency allowances saying they needed to study how ERP systems there work yet council used to have such a system while some local organisations also run on a similar system.

In July last year, the City of Harare announced that it had flighted a tender for the new billing system following the numerous problems that have dogged the current system.

Council expected the winning bidder to immediately provide the new billing system once the tendering process had been completed.

But there has been no progress done 10 months after the July 2022 announcement. 

Since the withdrawal of the BIQ billing system in 2019, the municipality’s billing has been shambolic with the local authority battling with a new system that saw it failing to produce monthly bills on time. 

The BIQ was provided by Quill Associates of South Africa.

This left the municipality to rely on estimates, particularly on water charges, which residents felt was unfair because council tap water was not readily available to most of them. 

Speaking at a City of Harare service delivery meeting for Ward 7 held at McDonald Swimming Pool in July last year, Cllr Mafume revealed that the city did not have enough internal servers to store data. 

Early this year, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works expressed concern over Harare’s perennial failure to address the billing system.

In a letter advising the City of Harare that central Government had approved its proposed 2023 budget, the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works reminded the municipality to take note of the observations and comments raised when it presented its budget proposals to the Ministry. 

These included delays in fixing the billing system, updating by-laws, finalisation of the city’s valuation roll and strategies to improve revenue collection.  

“There has been very little traction in the procurement a functional Enterprise Resource Planner, and it is hoped that this matter will be redressed at the earliest convenience to enhance organisational operations,” the Permanent Secretary Mr Zvinechimwe Churu said in the letter.

Announcing the approval of local authorities’ budgets in January, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo urged municipalities to adopt the Local Authorities Digital Systems (LADS) developed by the Harare Institute of Technology. Mutare has adopted the LADS and realised an improvement in revenue collection.

“All local authorities have been urged to upgrade their Enterprise Resource Program (ERPS) to the LADS platform in order to raise their revenue collection capacities. 

‘‘This will ensure proper provision of quality services to their residents,” said Minister Moyo.

In his budget presentation in November last year, Chairperson of the Finance and Economic Development Committee Councillor Costa Mande singled out the billing system among issues requiring urgent attention but there has been no action beyond the rhetoric.

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