The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Sunday News Reporter
THE Hwange Local Board (HLB) has forwarded its turnaround strategy that is aimed at improving its performance to the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.
According to the local authority’s latest monthly newsletter, HLB town secretary Mr Ndumiso Mdlalose said following a two-week training workshop on governance and budgetary issues conducted by Ministry officials, the local authority came up with plans to turn around its fortunes.
The ministerial team was led by Urban Local Authorities deputy director Mr Morgan Hungwe and part of the team’s tasks was to impart HLB officials with requisite information on standard operating procedures and policy documents to govern operations as well as to capacitate them to prepare draft financial statements.
“We came up with a way forward, which I and the chairman appended signatures to, and sent to the Minister (Cde July Moyo). On that basis, the Minister would want to monitor our activities,” said Mr Mdlalose.
The ministerial team noted that the local authority was performing at eight percent of its capacity. In a document addressed to the Minister, HLB chairman Councillor Ocean Mabhena acknowledged that over the years the local authority had been experiencing a myriad of challenges, which somehow affected its service delivery.
He noted that delay in submission of budgets, audit backlogs and poor revenue collection were some of the challenges that had been affecting the council’s operations. Cllr Mabhena expressed his profound gratitude to the Minister for sending his team to capacitate the council.
“Realising our shortcomings, you found it fit to send a powerful team to capacitate us and set us on a recovery path as a local authority. I wish to acknowledge the great and eye-opening work, which your team did for us, we have been vastly transformed,” he said.
Cllr Mabhena said a strategic plan to revive the local authority had been crafted. Meanwhile, the local authority was also optimistic that its door to door debt recovery exercise will yield positive results despite its rather subdued start.
Acting finance director Mr Abraham Phiri said the local authority’s debt collectors were only managing to collect an average of 15 percent of their daily set target.
“The exercise is working but it’s not what we expected. What I can only say is that the debt collectors are doing what they can but the fruits we are reaping leave a lot to be desired,” said Mr Phiri.
He however, largely attributed the low revenue collection being realised through the door to door debt strategy to dates at which the exercise commenced.
He further noted that most businesses blamed their failure to pay for trading licenses due to the outbreak of Covid-19, which led to the reduction of operating hours or complete shutdown of their businesses.
“Most business people are saying their businesses have not been up and running and all of a sudden we expect them to pay thus they are finding it difficult to do so,” said Mr Phiri.
HLB public relations officer Mr Dumisani Nsingo said the local authority embarked on a door to door debt collection exercise as part of its plan to recover its dues from property owners.
“We have realised that a number of property owners have been absconding paying rates for quite some time,” he said.
A number of rate payers have attributed their failure to visit the revenue office for payment due to the outbreak of Covid-19 though some have managed to transact electronically.
“Others have been paying physically while observing Covid-19 regulations and protocols. Thus, through this exercise we are according property owners an opportunity or a service to pay at their doorsteps using various forms of payments,” he said.
Mr Nsingo said the door to door debt collection exercise would be carried out until all properties within the local authority’s area of jurisdiction are covered and the debt collectors were also accepting down payments as well as allowing property owners to negotiate for payment plans.
He added that the exercise was also extended to businesses, which are operating without valid trading licenses.