The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has noted Harare Mayor, Councilor Bernard Manyenyeni’s call for residents’ associations to urge residents to pay their bills to council as a way of increasing revenue collection by the local authority.
Mayor Manyenyeni made the remarks last week (July 27, 2017) and pointed out that council was collecting an average of $12 million monthly against a target of $24 million.
According to Mayor Manyenyeni, council needs a “superior revenue collection model” to collect money owed by residents.
As CHRA, we firmly support Mayor Manyenyeni’s call for residents to pay their bills or make payment plans with council.
We however would like to point out that the current situation at Harare City Council points out to the fact that financial misappropriation as well as corruption by council bigwigs is largely responsible for poor service delivery in Harare.
It is of major concern that the Harare City Council continues to lose millions due to corruption and financial misappropriation yet “non-payment” by residents is touted as the reason behind the poor state of affairs in Harare.
Also worrying is the fact that some of the amounts residents are reported to owe council are largely questionable hence our calls for a debt audit to ensure residents pay what they truly owe the council.
CHRA is also concerned that at a time council is struggling to collect refuse in residential areas due to the non-availability of refuse trucks, a total of $5.5 million is reserved for sports.
The council’s sports budget is broken down as follows; golf- $100 000, volleyball- $255. 743, netball $323-333, basketball- $1 376.124, inter-cities tournament- $100 000, women’s soccer- $500.000, junior soccer- $475 000, councilors ward sports kits acquisition- $180 000, ward sports facilities development- $150 000, council sports tournament- $150 000, senior men’s soccer (Harare City Football Club)- $2 million.
CHRA reiterates that sports cannot take precedence over effective service delivery.
We are on record stating that sports development has become an avenue for looting of council funds by top executives. Mayor Manyenyeni, who has since retired as the Patron of Harare City Football Club, is on record claiming that council’s expenditure on sports is shrouded in secrecy and this is a clear pointer to some form of corruption or misappropriation of funds.
In June 2017, Mayor Manyenyeni expressed concern over huge spending by a council delegation accompanying a Harare City basketball team to Swaziland for a tournament.
According to Mayor Manyenyeni, the total expenses for the team’s trip amounted to $84 682.00 with 2 Councilors and 7 Executives pocketing $15 380.00 in allowances.
There is also another issue of the defiance of a government directive for council top executives to cut their obscene salaries which were prejudicing the city council of millions of dollars.
Despite the government directive to cut the salaries (to $10 450 for the highest earner), top executives at the Harare City Council continued to earn between $12 000 and $21 000 between October 2014 and June 2015 and this cost the Harare City Council more than $500 000.
Given the fact that 40 managers who include city doctors, engineers, lawyers and planners also benefited, the Harare City Council could have been prejudiced of millions of dollars.
This therefore points out that institutionalized corruption continues to affect Harare City Council and this has come with negative consequences on service delivery yet “non- payment” by residents is blamed for poor service delivery.
CHRA reiterates its call for residents to pay their bills to council but more importantly, we would like to emphasize that a debt audit is critical so that residents are not robbed of their hard earned cash.
Above all this, a social contract between council, residents as well as the business community is crucial to enable stakeholders to have a common understanding of the problems at hand as well as to develop a common vision to deal with issues affecting Harare.
CHRA vehemently opposes debt collection as a strategy to collect money owed by council as it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that debt collection is nothing but daylight robbery.