Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
While Harare City Council continuously complains that poor cashflow prevents it from providing adequate water and services like refuse collection, it has just spent at least $375 000 on iPads for councillors and selected managers with distribution having started last week.
The average market price for a brand new iPad is in the region of US$500, or $8 000 at the interbank rate that the council must legally use since it raises its charges in Zimbabwean currency. Calculations show that for Harare’s 46 councillors the city parted with at least $375 000. Ratepayers also said council was now captured to serve a few elites at the expense of the masses who are suffering from the deficit of service delivery in the city.
The $373 750 would have been enough to clear a monthly salary backlog for at least 337 lowest paid council employees getting $1 109.
While the purchase of the iPads torched a storm from ratepayers, Harare acting communications manager, Mr Innocent Ruwende said the gadgets were vital as council was generating a lot of paper work hence the need to go digital.
The Herald understands that the luxury iPads were bought sometime mid-July with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe procedures having delayed their delivery. Combined Harare Residents’ Association director Ms Loreen Mupasiri said while it was good to have iPads, there were more pressing service delivery issues that should be focused on, especially considering that council has been crying foul over the shortages of foreign currency and revenue.
“It’s a misdirected priority. What budget lines covered the iPads? Council never mentioned it in their previous budget. This is the challenge where there is no compliance to budgeted issues. This is one of the key factors affecting revenue collection.
“No ratepayer would want to fund a luxury such as an iPad when he does not have water to drink. This is wrong and disappointing. It does not make sense for council to talk of a digital era when even the billing system is chaotic. Bills cannot be tracked in real time and council administrative offices are short of adequate computers,” she said.
Mr Ruwende however, said council has to dump archaic methods of doing business and adopt new ways for it to achieve its vision of becoming a smart and world class city by 2025.
“The e-agenda also gives councillors ample time to go through the minutes and study them carefully to ensure robust debate when they come to council,’’ said Mr Ruwende.
Interestingly, The Herald understands that barely half of the city fathers know how to operate an iPad efficiently.