Harare City Council has approached the Government for a bailout to meet some of its obligations after its monthly revenue plunged from about $35 million to less than $5 million since the start of the lockdown.
Harare’s targeted monthly revenue is $70 million, while expenditure is budgeted at $65 million with half of that amount going towards salaries.
The drastic reduction in revenue collections has raised fears that council might fail to pay its 12 400 workers this month.
Harare town clerk Engineer Hosiah Chisango said council had since approached Government to assist with water treatment chemicals.
“Due to the novel coronavirus, we had closed down our district offices leading to low revenue inflows,” he said.
“Our books are not in the right state. We are collecting less than $5 million a month against a possible $35 million which we used to collect before the lockdown.”
Eng Chisango said while council has started reopening some of its offices to allow ratepayers to pay, inflows were still low.
“All council district offices and even Rowan Martin Building have been reopened to allow the transacting public to pay their bills,” he said.
“We are appealing to ratepayers to take advantage of the opening of the revenue halls.
“They should also maximise use of the plastic money payment methods.”
Harare Residents Trust director Mr Precious Shumba said residents were expecting Government to support local authorities to ensure that they continue providing essential services.
“Harare should also consider slashing their rates by half.
“For them to be arrogant and rigid expecting residents to pay the huge rates that they have pegged during the lockdown is expecting too much and they will be hugely disappointed,” he said.
The situation has brought back questions on whether the local authority’s huge workforce justifies the service that the city is offering ratepayers considering that only a modest fraction have been at work as essential workers and services.
Council was criticised for increasing the numbers on its organisational structure without employment analysis in a document titled, City of Harare report on current state of affairs January 2018-June 2019.
“The decision makers have since increased the city’s workforce from 9 760 to 12 422.
“The increase is not supported with any technical input from the Management Services Group which is the division that ascertains the need for recruitment.
“The MSG did not guide on best human resources practices especially on maintenance of the 75:25 vacancy ratios when the massive recruitment which resulted in over staffing and duplication of duties against the scarce resources available,” read the report.
According to the report some of the recruited were political activists being absorbed into the system and occupying strategic positions.