The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council has adopted a new credit control and debt collection policy which among other provisions, will see the local authority collecting rates and rentals directly from residents’ salaries.
The local authority has been operating without a documented credit control and debt collection policy. It was relying on council resolutions, the Urban Councils Act, the Water and Sewerage by-laws and other pieces of legislation. Last Wednesday, however, councillors passed a resolution that will see the new policy come into effect. Among other provisions contained in the new policy, the local authority will now have the power to collect owed rates and rentals from the consumer’s salary, however, with consent from the consumer and employer.
According to the latest council report, the local authority reserves the right to provide any services on the property until all municipal debts on the property have been paid in full or suitable payment arrangements made.
“The city may with the consent of a person liable to the city for the payment of rates or other taxes or fees for municipal services, enter into an agreement with that person’s employer to deduct from the salary or wages of the person; any outstanding amounts due by that person to the city, the onus to introduce such arrangements remains with each employer and employee.
Any person receiving a salary or allowances from the city may not be in arrears to the city for rates and consumer service charges for a period longer than three months and council may deduct any outstanding amounts from the person’s salary after this period,” reads part of the policy.
In terms of debt recovery, the local authority revealed that for any action taken in requesting payment from the resident or reminding the resident, by means of telephone, fax, e-mail, letter or otherwise an administrative fee may be levied against the account of the debtor.
In addition, companies or individuals that are placed under provisional sequestration, liquidation or judicial management, or commit an act of insolvency will have their water supplies cut off by the local authority. The policy, however, has a provision where a debtor can make an arrangement with the local authority to make monthly instalments to clear the debt.
“In order to determine monthly instalments, a comprehensive certified statement of assets and liabilities, payslip or bank statement of the debtor needs to be produced by the debtor. To ensure the continuous payment of such arrangement the amount determined must be affordable to the debtor, taking into account that payment of the monthly current account is a prerequisite for concluding an arrangement. The main aim of an agreement will be to promote full payment of the current account and to address the arrears on a consistent basis,” reads the policy.
The city’s Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube, noted that the local authority was not able to deliver services effectively because there was no credit policy in place.
“The revenue collection was very poor. The challenge had been that ratepayers who had the capacity to pay did not want to pay their debts. Those who had been paying timeously were no longer paying. It was now a requirement that council should have such a policy,” Mr Dube is quoted as saying in the report.
According to the latest council report the local authority is owed a total of $182 966 381 with residents owing $100 970 914 while industry and commercial debtors stand at $ 72 518 361. Government departments owe $5 051 373 while parastatals owe $4 425 733. Council is also owed $114 166 939 by Zesa in royalties for the use of the Bulawayo Power Station.