Editorial Comment: Harare municipality needs overhaul

Editorial Comment: Harare municipality needs overhaul

EACH report on Harare City Council’s operations clearly shows that there is an increasing need for a complete overhaul of the municipality’s manner of doing business. In fact there is need for a whole shift of culture to service orientation. Residents are failing to access the three very basic services from the city authorities; waste management, water reticulation and road maintenance. We will not even go into other matters like the provision of street lighting and social amenities.

On Monday, Harare Mayor Clr Bernard Manyenyeni said the municipality was looking at introducing a raft of cost cutting strategies including monitoring telephone bills and fuel usage. This is a great idea but the question that begs is why was this not done a long time ago?

It is also perplexing that the city has accumulated almost US$300 000 000 in uncollected revenue. Have they ever heard of something called credit control?
Even more worrisome is the declaration that insurance premiums are being paid while benefits are not being realised. Who pays insurance premiums then decides not to make claims when the event against which they are insured occurs? The public should be forgiven for concluding that some people have been hitting very lucrative windfalls from that deal.

Failure to put in place systems that create checks and balances for such mundane everyday operational costs points to deep rot in the whole structure. Are there no managers and accountants in the whole council set up who are being paid to do just that?

What makes it even worse is when we hear that the city does not have a clear idea of its own obligations in so far as they do not know what they owe other Government institutions. So now Clr Manyenyeni would like to see the creation of yet another bureaucratic monster called a pool clearing house to do their accounting.

So instead of putting the house in order, the mayor is advocating adding yet more stress on the overburdened ratepayers as we will have to provide perks and salaries for the new institution?

What guarantee is there that this will result in improved water delivery, road servicing and refuse collection?
The mayor also spoke of decentralising debt management to district offices to ensure speedy prosecution of defaulters. Which would be wonderful news if the city was not currently embroiled in cases of disputed bills.

There are many instances where people are billed for water and refuse collection, yet these are basic services that they never enjoy.
The city council must provide services for which residents are billed. This culture of expecting people to just pay up and shut up cannot continue for much longer because residents are fed up.

An example has been set with a pending court case and the city council should expect more challenges for its erratic billing and service provision.
In the past no one wanted to endure the shame of having their utilities disconnected over unpaid bills.

Homeowners and tenants would borrow to settle their bills. Now instead the city has to write off debt to encourage people to pay.
If they can do this, it means they can afford to bring their charges down to make services affordable to everyone instead of seeming to put the burden on the few individuals and institutions who still believe in settling their dues faithfully every month.

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