Ratepayers’ debt jumps ZWL$17bn in two months

30 Sep, 2022 - 00:09 0 Views

Suburban

 THE debt owed by ratepayer to the City of Harare has ballooned from ZWL$28 billion in June 2022 to ZWL$45 billion as of August 2022 in a matter of two months, according to the municipality’s figures.

Suburban Reporter 

A review of the city’s budget performance between January and June 2022 showed that the city was owed a total of ZWL$28.614 billion but this has since jumped by a massive ZWL17 billion in two months. 

This week the City of Harare said it is now owed ZWL$45 billion by residents, Government and business a situation which is adversely affecting service delivery.

As of August this year industry and commerce owed the city ZWL$16 billion, residents ZWL$13 billion, Government ZWL$961 million while dormitory towns owe ZWL$1.1 billion. 

Other stakeholders owe the remainder.

Addressing a stakeholders meeting held recently at Town House, Mayor Councillor Jacob Mafume said the huge debt has rendered the city’s financial state unsustainable.

“The failure by residents, institutions and Government Ministries to pay for services has affected our operations because we are failing to pay our service providers.”

“As we discuss the performance of the 2022 budget, those are some of the figures we need to keep in mind. Business needs to come on board to rescue the City. There are many areas where we can partner and get return on investment,” said the Mayor.

Cllr Mafume said the post payment of services was not conducive to the prevailing economic environment. 

However, residents have been questioning the municipality’s figure with some wards describing them as “phantom” and a joke given the municipality is billing ratepayers for non-delivered services particularly water and refuse collection.

Last week, Ward 17 residents (Mt Pleasant, Northwood, Groombridge, Pomona, Vainona, Borrowdale West, Mt Pleasant Heights) expressed frustration over the perennially chaotic billing at the City of Harare with the city continuing to bill them for non-delivered services and failing to capture payments made as well as the ever skyrocketing rates. 

In discussions on their residents’ platform, Ward 17 ratepayers said the municipality was dismally failing to address the billing chaos with most of them not receiving monthly bill statements while the city’s rates are rising every month. 

The few residents who have received their latest bills said they were billed amounts ranging from ZWL$235 000 to ZWL$800 000 for residential and commercial properties, which some described as phantom and a joke. 

For a number of years, the City of Harare has not been sending residents monthly bill statements and residents have had to inquire each time they want to make payments.

A few years ago, the city stopped using a reliable billing system following a dispute with a South African supplier resulting in the municipality failing to produce monthly bill statements. Council urged residents to provide details such as emails and mobile phone numbers in order to get e-bills. Residents obliged but the system still failed to produce bills for all ratepayers. Council also came up with digital payment platforms but these have been failing to capture payments, much to the disappointment of ratepayers meeting their monthly obligations. 

The discussions were sparked by statistics shared at the Ward 17 pre-budget meeting which showed an average bill payment rate of only 3 percent for Ward 17. According to the statistics, council billed a total of ZWL$801 595 014.53 between January and July this year but realised only ZWL$22 937 169.74 in revenue leaving an outstanding debt of ZWL$790 447 762.48. 

Residents described the figures as “phantom” with some suggesting the municipality should write off any outstanding balances and start afresh given the chaotic billing in the city.  

Reacting to a Suburban story on the Ward 17 figures, a resident from Ward 41 said the municipality’s billing inefficiencies were deliberate and meant to “camouflage dubious transactions” adding that council does not show residents proper bills and corresponding services lest the “gravy train comes to a screeching halt”.   

In Ward 41 (Marlborough, Avonlea, Emerald Hill, Ashbrittle, Westgate, Bluff Hill, Good Hope, Tynwald, Willow Creek) residents owe the City of Harare a whooping ZWL$1,5 billion in unpaid rates, figures provided by the municipality show.

According to the city’s billing records, 

Ward 41’s 13 309 properties were billed for a total of ZWL$1 355 812 878 between January and July 2022 but the figure is now at a total of ZWL$1 575 523 915 because of the ward’s legacy debt.  Ratepayers in the ward paid a total of ZWL$551 669 962 during the period under review.

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