BY PATRICIA SIBANDA
BULAWAYO City Council has been operating without a credit control and debt collection policy document and relies on council resolutions which has compromised revenue collection, Finance director Kempton Ndimande has said.
The local authority has been failing to collect debts from ratepayers.
“The financial director (Ndimande) reported that council had been operating without a documented credit control and debt collection policy. It had been relying on council resolutions, the Urban Councils Act, the water and sewerage by-laws and other pieces of legislation. A credit policy had been crafted with valuable input from the chamber secretary, human capital department and the procurement management unit,” the minutes read.
Latest figures show that BCC is owed over $189 million by ratepayers, including government departments and the private sector, a situation it says has negatively impacted on service delivery.
However, the latest council minutes indicate that ward 19 councillor Alderman Clayton Zana had pointed out that the credit control and debt collection policy was taking too long to be implemented.
Zana claimed that ratepayers were committed to settling bills which called for the urgent implementation of the debt collection policy.
“The reason why residents had not been paying their debts is because of the delay in implementing the policy. Residents take advantage of the economic situation and have stopped paying their debts,” Zana told council.
Finance committe chairperson councillor Mlandu Ncube said debtors should be engaged before the implementation of the policy.
“The policy idea has always been there, so debtors should be engaged before the implementation to avoid any inconveniences with them,” the minutes read.
BCC chamber secretary Sikhangele Zhou and council legal officer Stekiwa Mugiya said the credit policy would help avoid accumulation of debt.
“It provides uniformity, clarity and transparency,” Zhou said.
She hoped that the policy would address all classes of debtors, saying adopting the policy would avoid unmanageable accumulation of debts and also protect residents against unfair treatment by some office bearers.
“The wording of clause 61 of the policy created a condition precedent to the assumption of office by a councillor or and this would be revisited to reflect the desire to have the councillor maintain up to date accounts while in office,” minutes read.
Bulawayo town clerk Christopher Dube seconded the adoption of the policy and confirmed that it would cater for all groups who include the vulnerable.
“Council was not able to deliver services effectively because there was no credit policy in place. The revenue collection was very poor. The challenge had been that ratepayers who had the capacity to pay did not want to pay their debts. Those who had been paying timeously were no longer paying. It was now a requirement that council should have such a policy,” Dube
said, according to the minutes.