Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Harare is set to engage debt collectors at the expiry of its 90-day window within which ratepayers who settle their debts in full are enjoying a 50 percent discount. The city’s revenue has been declining since it parted ways with Wellcash Debt Collectors, whose operations were frustrated by pressure groups.
Revenue collection has however, improved by 100 percent after the city offered the 50 percent discount.
In an interview, city corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme said the facility was designed to specifically encourage bill payment and to excite residents to pay up as a result of the expected improvements in service delivery.
“On the expiry of the current bill settlement arrangement, council will engage debt collectors to chase on customers who would not have taken advantage of the 50 percent. This arrangement is the first of its kind for Harare ratepayers and should be fully embraced,” he said.
“Positives are already being observed on the ground with clear reference to road rehabilitation.”
Government, businesses and residents now owe the local authority over $784 million.
Council hopes the incentives will rescue Harare from a financial crisis which has seen the local authority failing to pay salaries and provide basic services such as refuse collection.
When the city introduced a similar facility in 2016, it raked in $85 million.
The city says service delivery will improve if it manages to collect $400 million from what it is owed rather than continue saying it is owed about $800 million which the city will never be able to recover.
The city’s revenue has been declining since it parted ways with Wellcash Debt Collectors, whose operations were frustrated by pressure groups.
The city says Wellcash Debt Collectors brought in more than $5 million directly, while a further $20 million due to council was paid to council by residents who were served with letters of demand.
According to a performance report on debt collection for the period November 23, 2016 to June 14, 2017, Wellcash Debt Collectors visited almost every debtor in the city.
Government has urged local authorities to use whatever means at their disposal, including debt collectors, to recover money owed by ratepayers following revelations that most councils are collecting less than 50 percent of what they bill residents.
Government says need to understand that councils use money to buy fuel for refuse collection, road maintenance and construction and the provision of clean potable water, among other services.