By Mashudu Netsianda
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) says its coffers are running dry and as such it is struggling to pay its workers and deliver services effectively.
The council which says its revenue declined by 80 percent during the past two months, is delaying paying salaries.
According to a council report, in March, the local authority managed to collect $15 million but when the lockdown came into effect at the end of March, revenue inflows tumbled to $3 million in April.
In his presentation on Bulawayo’s state of affairs during a Zanu-PF meeting at Davies Hall yesterday, Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said the local authority is “broke” and was now contemplating charging some of its services in foreign currency.
He said council was also struggling to pay its workers as evidenced by delays in paying salaries.
Revenue inflows into council coffers have been erratic since the lockdown came into effect on March 30.
Mr Dube said their suppliers were either charging in foreign currency or demanding exorbitant fees in local currency.
“Council has no money and we are now struggling to offer effective service delivery to residents and we are also delaying in paying our employees due to a sharp decline in revenue inflows. Under the circumstances, council is supposed to have a supplementary budget and it is a process which involves a lot of consultations and our parent ministry has to also approve that because it entails hiking rates and service charges,” said Mr Dube.
He said council was struggling to collect refuse and deliver water in residential areas because it could not buy fuel as fuel was at times only available at service stations that demand forex. Everything is now charged in foreign currency in Bulawayo yet ratepayers continue paying in local currency.”
He said residents have been unwilling to pay bills in foreign currency largely due to the official exchange rate that was not attractive.
“Residents go to the black market where they change their forex and then pay rates and bills in local currency. The challenge is that our suppliers demand forex or charge exorbitant monies in local currency,” he said.
Inflation has reduced the $1,315 billion council budget which was equivalent to US$122 million when it was crafted to about US$17,5 million.
“We have decided to rebase the budget that we approved in US dollar so that even if the value of local currency depreciates, at least we still remain with a budget.
“This means that we are also revaluing the debts in US dollar amount. We have 4 000 stands that we owe people because we don’t have money to service them,” said Mr Dube.
BCC bases its decision to charge in forex on Statutory Instrument 85 of 2020, allowing citizens to pay for goods and services chargeable in Zimbabwe dollars, in foreign currency using free funds.
Previously, SI 212 of 2019 had made it illegal to quote prices and collect in foreign currency or units other than the Zimbabwe dollar.
Yesterday’s meeting, which was attended by United Refineries’ chief executive officer Mr Busisa Moyo and officials from ZimParks, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, focused on the economic challenges faced by Bulawayo residents. Mr Moyo attributed the escalating prices of basic commodities to high production costs incurred by manufacturers.
He implored Government through the ruling party to consider adopting the use of the South African rand as a focal currency for businesses operating in the region.
Politburo members Cdes Joshua Malinga, Tshinga Dube and Angeline Masuku as well as Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube attended the meeting. The Chronicle