By Clayton Masekesa
Over 20 000 properties owned by residents and companies in Mutare have been living for free without paying anything to the Mutare City council, prejudicing the cash strapped local authority of millions of dollars over the years, a new billing system has exposed.
The Town Clerk Joshua Maligwa confirmed the shocking discovery on Tuesday.
Maligwa said the Mutare City Council has embarked on a land sales and finance audit that is aimed at exposing illegal land sales and cash handling that run into millions of dollars.
Since taking charge of office since 2016, Maligwa said there was rampant corruption in the allocation of stands and handling of cash at the local authority.
“We have put all our properties on the Geographical Information System (GIS) for easy and efficient management of our property database and finance operations,” he said.
“This GIS that is working with our Information Communication Technology (ICT) department has exposed that revenue collection is in a mess as close to half of all the properties in the city are non-existent on our billing system,” Maligwa said.
“This means that more than 20 000 families or companies are either living or operating for free in the urban municipality for they have not paid a cent for services and other deliverables,” he explained.
“The billing system is in a mess and we need to correct it with urgency. These are loopholes that have been bleeding council financially over the years,” he said.
A closer look by The Zimbabwe Morning Post showed that Mutare had a total of 48 843 properties, but, after the GIS exercise only 15 000 are in the council’s database, meaning that the remainder are all non existent.
A further look also exposed that from the 48 843 only 27 000 were captured in the billing system, meaning that the remaining figure was not being billed.
“Shockingly, some properties have negative figures on their accounts running into thousands of dollars which meant that council owed them money. The impression here was that these clients were paying their bills in advance. Paying for services they have not been offered.
“You will be surprised to see that some of the properties that were not being billed are located right in the Central Business District,” he said.
The town clerk said the local authority was collecting around $2,3 million every month but the figure is expected to rise to about $3 million by July this year and to reach $5 million by year end as council moves quickly to complete the GIS exercise. ZimMorningPost