Govt debt to Bulawayo City Council increases
BULAWAYO — Government’s debt to council has increased by almost five percent, placing further strain on the local authority’s ability to provide quality service to residents.
As at March 31, the debt had risen to US$4,3 million from US$4,1 million.
A council report indicates that the Ministry of Education is the largest debtor, owing US$1,31 million; followed by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority which owes US$1,29 million.
The Ministry of Home Affairs owes US$740 668, while the Ministry of Health owes US$452 055.
The Ministry of Higher Education is owing US$345 098, with the Ministry of Agriculture indebted to the tune of US$1 560.
“An amount of US$1 319 859 was agreed to be offset with the Ministry of Finance in lieu of pay-as-you-earn incurred in 2015 is yet to be credited to the government’s accounts. This will reduce the government’s indebtedness to council once effected to US$3 031 448,” reads part of the report.
Council is still far from finding its feet financially, after it was forced by government, along with other local authorities, to cancel debts owed by residents in the heat of electioneering in 2013.
The populist move left many local authorities barely able to keep their heads above the water, in terms of running operations and meeting their monthly expenditures.
Dwindling disposable incomes also meant that there was little room for authorities to seek rates adjustments upwards, as the bulk of their clients are already struggling to make ends meet.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is owed nearly US$70 million by residents, while industrial and commercial debtors owe US$49,4 million.
Meanwhile, a seven-member team that was dispatched by Kasukuwere earlier this month to probe allegations of possible impropriety in land awarded to Bulawayo councillors is expected to conclude its investigations this week.
Mayor, Martin Moyo, said his team would co-operate with the investigators because they have nothing to hide.
Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, has upped the ante on the Movement for Democratic Change controlled local councils throughout the country over their failure to provide adequate services to urban dwellers, amid allegations of growing corruption in their ranks.
Councils in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and most recently Chitungwiza are operating under Kasukuwere’s hawk’s eye.
Meanwhile, a trip to China by council and government officials to court foreign investment is increasingly becoming doubtful.
The trip, to include five council members and the Minister of State for Bulawayo Province, Nomthandazo Eunice Moyo, was scheduled for this month, but the financiers, the Ministry of Macro Planning and Investment Promotion, are understood to be dead broke.
Ever since the trip was mooted last month, the financiers are still to communicate on the plans made so far to facilitate the trip to China’s Qingdao city.
The purpose of the trip is to undertake an investment and twinning arrangement with Qingdao, one of China’s economic powerhouses with a gross domestic product growth of 9,2 percent.
The city attracted US$5,52 billion worth of foreign direct investment in 2013.
It is hoped that the twinning arrangement would help with efforts towards the revival of ailing industries in Bulawayo, which have been on the downhill since dollarisation of the economy in February 2009.
The government has pursued a deliberate foreign policy that seeks to court investment from the East, dubbed the “Look East” policy, after its fallout with Western governments in 2000 over the country’s chaotic farm seizures.
Moyo this week cast doubt on the trip.
“We have not heard any information concerning that trip. So, for now we will stay put until such a time as we are contacted by the Ministry of Macro Planning and Investment Promotion… This trip is wholly being financed by the same Ministry of Macro Planning and Investment Promotion,” he told the Financial Gazette.
In a letter to BCC, the Minister of State for Bulawayo had requested a delegation of at least five persons to accompany her to China.
“Delegates co-ordinated by the office of the Honourable Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province are invited to take part in this trip to promote investment for Bulawayo. His Worship the Mayor Councillor Martin Moyo and the Honourable Eunice Moyo participated in the initial round table meeting with the Chinese delegation in Harare on the 6th of January 2016,” reads part of the letter.
“Bulawayo City Council is therefore requested to come up with a delegation of at least five people, which may include His Worship the Mayor and four other technocrats that will accompany the Honourable Minister to Qingdao, China. The revival of Bulawayo requires a joint effort that will guarantee the turnaround of industry in the city,” the letter further reads.
It was hoped that Bulawayo would, among other benefits, receive training programmes co-ordinated by the twinning city, consulting organisations and academia in areas such as city treasury or fund management, operations management especially linking of different city departments, project management principles, implementation standards and rules of best practice in modern city management and administration.
Other areas of benefit also included water reticulation, waste management and disposal as well as business opportunities in this sector of city operations.
Among those shortlisted for the trip are the acting town clerk, Sikhangele Zhou, director of engineering services, Simela Dube, acting economic development officer, Brian Hlongwane and senior public relations officer, Nesisa Mpofu.
Bulawayo already enjoys twinning arrangements with the South African cities of Durban and Polokwane, with BCC having so far benefited from assistance from its twin cities in setting up of a water master plan and other projects.
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