Innocent Ruwende Municipal Reporter
HARARE City Council has fired seven employees, while another has been arrested for manipulating the city’s billing system to swindle unsuspecting ratepayers of thousands of dollars.
The scam, which threatened to undo Government’s progressive arrears write-off, raised the ire of ratepayers.
Council’s business development director Mr Cosmas Zvikaramba said the eight where from the revenue and central accounts department.
“They have been discharged from council after an internal hearing in which they gave their sides of the story. The other case is still pending at the Harare Magistrates Court and we will be guided by the outcome of the court,” he said.
The workers allegedly issued fake receipts and made residents pay for their accounts to be credited.
In some cases, the workers would reportedly copy information from the BIQ system and place it on their personal laptops because the system has a loophole of auto credit or debit and they could tamper with the information and credit consumers with approximately US$5 000 before approaching them for a bribe.
Mr Zvikaramba said to avoid further cases of this nature, council introduced new receipts with added security features and have ensured that only machines recognised on the council system could access the system.
Council also removed the auto credit system and authorised a limited number of people to use journal vouchers to mitigate the criminal activities.
Personnel from the City Treasurer’s Department were scanning and issuing fake receipts to consumers and it became difficult for the loss control section to detect the culprit as the hacker would illegally use the password of a colleague who would be on leave and sign in.
This was disadvantageous to the consumer as his/her account would not be credited and he/she only got to realise it three weeks later.
The workers in question also used a journal voucher — a complete reversal book entry which they manipulated through reversal of charges that could have been found out if the consumer had been overcharged as a result of human error like meter reading or data capturing and authorities were then asked to do complete reversal to rectify the challenges.
The financial prejudice to the city was still to be quantified.