Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
GWERU City Council’s debtors’ bill has ballooned to over $186 million with an average of $20 million collections per month against target of about $30 million.
This comes as the city’s 200-strong plus employees are demanding a salary increase yet the local authority is struggling to meet its obligations such as payment of current salaries, capital projects and service delivery.
The council has since increased the 2020 budget of $1,8 billion by 75 percent hoping to increase revenue inflows. The council has been failing to rehabilitate its road network as well as supplying residents with potable water, a negative development that has been attributed to lack of financial resources.
Mayor, Councillor Josiah Makombe, said they continue to experience financial woes due to reluctance by residents to honor their bills, resulting in a growing debtors’ book. “Rateplayers should honour their bills to ensure quality service provision. Our monthly billing average is $30 million against monthly average collections of $20 million and this gives us a collection efficiency rate of 67 percent.
“In other words, 33 percent is added to debtors on a monthly basis and this is not healthy for the city. Our debtors bill as at August 31 before August billing stood at $186 671 377,” he said.
Cllr Makombe said the low revenue collection levels have negative effect on operations adding that they now owe Zesa $61 million for power supplies to Gwenoro water treatment plant. This also affects procurement of water treatment chemicals.
Cllr Makombe said tariffs were last reviewed in July to 75 percent of the approved budget adding that this review will come to effect from the August bills, which are yet to be distributed to residents and companies because of the breakdown of the printing machines.
“However, due to inflationary pressures, the tariffs are no longer sustainable, so stakeholders must be geared for another review in the near future,” he said.
Cllr Makombe said council also resolved to introduce dual pricing in line with Statutory Instrument 185 of 2020. He implored residents who pay in United States dollars to demand receipts in US dollar for internal control purposes.
Cllr Makombe said the local authority cannot at the moment increase its workers’ salaries because of cash constraints. “We feel for our workers but just like the Government, we can’t meet their demands riding on the low revenue inflows. When revenue inflows increase, we will definitely increase their salaries,” he said.