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Saturday, June 15, 2024

City of Harare wallows in billing system chaos

Story by Theophilus Chuma

HARARE residents are bearing the heavy burden of a shambolic billing system, with shocking revelations that some rate payers have bills of up to US$1 600 in just a month.

The serene environment in Mabelreign suburb of Harare hides probably one of the latest scandals that has become a source of discomfort for residents.

Just four days ago, residents convened an emergency meeting after receiving water and service bills ranging between US$800 to US$1600.

“We met with the residents after they had received bills as high as US$1600 dollars or ZWL15 million and this was a major cause of concern. It’s one of the issues highlighting the problems being raised from a disjointed billing system that has been left vacant for over five years. The huge bills are not reflective of what the residents are supposed to pay according to the zonal rating standards for Harare. What is happening is day light robbery,” said Harare ward 16 councillor, Denford Ngadziore.

This comes at a time when Harare residents are paying estimated water and service delivery bills, a result of a shambolic billing system left to thrive by the Harare City Council for five years.

It comes after the withdrawal of BIQ accounting and financial reporting system in March 2019.

The Harare Residents Trust says this has opened avenues for deception by council officials.

“Residents are bearing the brunt of the current crisis at the Harare City Council, but we suspect that the current gaps are being allowed by officials who are benefiting from this vacuum. There are a handful of officials who have created their own companies who are disrupting the tender process for a new billing system and unfortunately this is making the situation worse for residents,” noted Harare Residents Trust chairperson, Mr Precious Shumba.

Authorities at Town House appear to be oblivious to the current situation, seemingly disregarding the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ending December, 2022 which revealed that the city’s books were in shambles.

In addition, there are fears the City of Harare is losing millions of dollars through revenue leakages and unaccounted properties.

“The system that is being used by the local authority can only cater for 10 000 properties and this is against the other sizeable properties owned by the City of Harare,” added Shumba.

The withdrawal of the BIQ system in 2019 has seen the city reportedly operating without functional integrated cash books.

ZBC News is reliably informed that a special council meeting by the local authority last week saw officials allegedly trading accusations of manipulating the billing system to line their pockets.

Efforts to get a comment from the Harare City Council Town Clerk, Hosiah Chisango were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.

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