WHY do local authorities in Zimbabwe think it is normal to be owed money by residents?
Take for example, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) which is failing to effectively collect revenue to the extent that ratepayers owe $2,1 billion while council owes creditors $1,8 billion.
BCC said residents have the highest debt of $1,3 billion, followed by industrial and commercial debtors at $651 million, Government ($156 million) and parastatals and self-financing ministries ($56 million).
On the other hand, BCC owes Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) $1,3 billion, employees $200 million, the Local Authorities Pension Fund (LAPF) $100 million, trade creditors $67 million as well as substantial amounts to several other institutions.
The $1,3 billion council owes Zesa can go a long way in replacing stolen cables and attending to faults that lead to loadshedding.
BCC employees are now prone to corruption while their pension fund is failing to meet obligations because of councils that are not paying up.
This is a travesty and if a whole council cannot be dissolved over such, then what else can possible lead to the firing of councillors?
Do local authorities even know how many households are under their purview?
Off course residents are to blame for not paying their bills but there are people whose job is to collect rates.
Some of these people are living luxurious lifestyles and one wonders where they are getting the money if council is not paying salaries.
A lifestyle audit is needed at BCC.
If council is not collecting, how come people are getting richer?
Where is the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission? We need answers!
The revenue being collected by council is not enough to run the city.
What the city is owed, once collected, can make Bulawayo the best city overnight.
Hopefully, the adoption of the Local Authorities Digital Systems (LADS) will address the issue of rates once and for all.
The new system can help council improve management of housing applications and waiting lists, cemetery records, procurement processes, tracking management processes and service provisions in local authorities.
The LADS application was created by the Harare Institute of Technology with support from international agencies.
Mutare City Council (MCC) has already adopted LADS and is now able to collect up to 80 percent of its total revenue and cleared all its debts, while other local authorities are collecting just 20 percent of their total revenues.
For Bulawayo, 80 percent will go a long way in improving service delivery.
Bulawayo secretary for provincial affairs and devolution Mr Paul Nyoni said his office is already in consultation with BCC on adoption of the new electronic system.
“More than 20 local authorities have adopted LADS and have increased their revenue collections.
For instance, MCC is now collecting 80 percent in terms of their monthly collection using the new system.
But at this moment we are building that critical mass allowing the local authority to also assess the system so that they can adopt it from a point of knowledge rather than just joining something that they are not sure of,” said Mr Nyoni.
“In terms of Bulawayo, I can tell you that we are already in discussions as Central Government and the local authority in terms of adopting the new system.”