The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has insisted that its bills are normal and are based on the cost of providing services amid complaints of overbilling from residents.
Residents have accused the local authority of overbilling them and it culminated in a demonstration that was organised by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association recently. They claimed the high bills started as the council moves to index all bills in foreign currency and insisted that the bills were unjustifiably too high compared to the poor service delivered.
Responding to questions from Sunday News, BCC corporate communications manager, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said when considering the real value of the bills, their charges were normal.
“Tariffs are based on the cost of providing the services and the key delivery inputs are fuel, electricity, water and waste water treatment chemicals, medicines, stationery and spare parts. While the bills may be referred to as high, the real value as compared to the stable US dollar is normal.
“Industrial, commerce and domestic water meters are read monthly, and bi-monthly respectively. In the event that council is unable to read water meters property owners should supply actual readings before billing to avoid average costs,” said the council spokesperson.
Mrs Mpofu acknowledged that there were some residents who could be getting what they deemed to be high bills because of previous anomalies like the staff constraints.
“The high bills were caused by council’s inability to read meters occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, staff constraints and transport among other factors.
Council began regular reading of meters in June 2021 and all the initial correction of accounts with high bills has been done in all the districts in the city.
“However, some properties which were not read due to their inaccessibility to meter readers still come up and the adjustment process is an ongoing billing matter. Council’s billing system is robust and dependable. Residents and stakeholders who have queries are free to approach any Council Revenue office for explanations and the breakdown of their bills,” she said.
According to the local authority’s proposed 2023 budget average bills for ward one will be pegged at US$110 a month, ward two; US$48, ward three; US$70, ward four; US$98, ward five; US$70, ward six; US$64, ward seven and 13; US$25, ward eight, nine, 14, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 28; US$29 and wards 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 28 and 29 will pay an average bill of US$26.
In terms of owing, the local authority is currently owed $24 billion with residents owing $15 billion, industry and commerce $7 billion, government debtors; $1,3 billion while parastatals and self-financing ministries owe $855 million.
“Debtors increased by 21 percent while Creditors increased by 220 percent. Council is running the risk of being unable to pay the creditors as gap between Creditors and Debtors is narrowing. Management is seized with setting up the debt management unit which will improve collections. Council availed platforms such as EcoCash, OneWallet, Telecash and internet banking for ratepayers to make payments.
“For the month of September 2022, $1,4 billion (63 percent) of the total receipts from billed accounts) was received from domestic ratepayers while $842 million (37 percent) of the total receipts from billed accounts) was from non-domestic ratepayers,” reads a council report.