Harare residents could soon be without running water in their homes for not paying bills, while defaulting tenants leasing council property risk having their agreements terminated as the city steps up efforts to boost revenue inflows.
Council says it would disconnect water for residents who have not been paying their bills in the last three months and has tasked Mayor Clr Bernard Manyenyeni to pursue high-profile debtors such as the Government, satellite towns, legislators and Cabinet ministers who owe the city millions of dollars.
While the city’s efforts to improve revenue collection are commendable, indications are that much of the money recovered is unlikely to be used for service delivery as it emerged that Harare spends 59 percent of its revenue on salaries and allowances for its employees.
This is in defiance of a Government directive for all councils to attain a 30 percent budget allocation on salaries and 70 percent on service delivery.
The 59 percent expenditure on salaries comes at a time when the city is failing to provide basic services such as clean water, refuse collection and good roads.
According to Finance and Development Committee Minutes of September 11, the city collected $87,9 million of which 59 percent went to salaries and allowances.
Harare is also now considering introducing pre-paid water meters so that residents would only get water upon payment.
As of March 31 this year the city was owed $281 million with commercial and industrial customers owing $172 678 387, 22, domestic $86 115 649, 05, Government $19 597 422, 47, Chitungwiza $2
According to the minutes, which were endorsed in a special council meeting yesterday, council was failing to pay salaries, fuel for operations of the city, electricity and other statutory bodies.
The city owes various statutory bodies and companies more than $340 million and others are threatening legal action.
According to the minutes, council is targeting to collect $8,5 million from water, recover more than $7 million through issuance of summons and close to $5 million from people leasing council properties and about $34 million through various measures.
During the deliberations in the special council, Glenview Clr Tungamirai Madzokere urged the city to find other means of collecting revenue arguing that the High Court had outlawed water disconnections.
He said every resident had a right to water and water disconnections would lead to the rise of diseases, which would affect even the paying residents.
“Find other means to entice residents to pay their bills,” he said.
However, Ward 9 (Greendale) Clr Stewart Mtizwa, said there was no need to be populist as residents have to pay for services provided by council.
“Disconnections are proper. At the moment Zinwa (Zimbabwe National Water Authority) is closing boreholes for defaulting customers. If residents do not pay they leave us at a very serious position because we will not be able to provide them with the services.
“There is no free water or free service unless you are getting the water from a dam,” he said.
Rugare Clr Peter Moyo, said council should get back its thermal power stations from Zesa because the power utility was busy switching off council when it was not paying council for using the power stations.
He also urged Mbare councillors to ensure that some council buildings which “have been invaded by politicians’’ were retained to council so that it can collect revenue from them.
Glen Norah Clr Herbert Gomba, said council should collect revenue from churches that were mushrooming across the city.
“I am sure that we can agree that the only business that is thriving at the moment is church business yet we are not collecting any revenue from churches. We should ensure that we get something from churches,” he said.
Acting finance director Mr Tendai Kwenda, told councillors that the city was failing to adhere to the ministerial directive for all councils to achieve a 30 percent and 70 percent budget allocation on salaries and service delivery issues respectively.
“He advised that this had not been achieved as revenue collection was not matching the projected revenue collections. He underscored that the city was operating on a cash budget due to cash flow constraints.
“It was also highlighted that council had not managed to borrow to expectations due to capacity as well as the sustainability issues,” read part of the committee’s minutes.
Mr Kwenda told council that the full impact of the recent rationalisation would be experienced in 2015 after the full payment of the respective retirement packages and that the city was facing challenges in raising adequate funding for operational costs and adequate funding for repairs and maintenance.
“There was need to remove accrued interest on debtor accounts for all those who settle their accounts in full by December 31, 2014.
“There was also need to create sustainable partnerships on council businesses and also make monthly appropriations to council. It was prudent to extend a 5 percent monthly discount to compliant ratepayers on a monthly basis,” read the minutes.
He said all stuck water meters should be replaced to ensure billing was based on actual consumption as well as ensured equitable management of water distribution.
Mr Kwenda said there was need for council to ensure that accurate billing and timeous updating of payments was done to build confidence in the city’s residents/ratepayers and all stakeholders - Herald.