THE Bulawayo City Council has resolved to credit almost $7 million into accounts of companies and residents who did not benefit from the government directive to write off debts, as their payments had been up to date.
The money that council would have written off since Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo directed all local authorities in the country to cancel debts accumulated during the life of the previous coalition government, adds to $49 million.
According to confidential council minutes, the local authority resolved to credit into some residents and company accounts $6 839 240,52.
“While the ministerial directive had brought relief to the majority of the residents, effectively it had rewarded those who did not prioritise payment for the services they had received/enjoyed and penalised those residents who paid their dues regularly,” the report reads.
“. . . It did not cover commercial and industrial ratepayers and those domestic ratepayers who had paid their dues regularly. The proposal seeks to reward and show appreciation to those who had prioritised payment for services by paying their dues/rentals.”
Council considered three options with the first being to stick to the letter of the directive and do nothing.
“However, this killed the spirit of good citizenry and council should seriously consider the repercussions. There was no monetary loss per se of adopting this option. The effect of this stance was that council cashflows would continue to be subdued,” the minutes read.
The second option was for council to come up with a once-off credit to consumers whose accounts had been either at zero or in credit.
“This credit could be based on the selected services levied on the accounts from January 2013 to June 2013. This amounted to $6 839 240,52. Included in the commercial consumers’ category were blocks of residential flats on sectional title that were bulk metered.
“The flats were purely residential, but because the owners were not individually metered, the tariff applicable was commercial (non-domestic). This category of consumer was requesting that they be included in the write-off.”
The third option was to offer the affected accounts a write-off of one month’s accrual, for example June, and this would result in a write-off of $1 188 603,33.
It was recommended that the option of crediting accounts with $6 839 240,52 be considered favourably as
“it was envisaged that it would encourage the ratepayers and consumers to pay their dues so that service provision did not suffer”. It was resolved to recommend that “in principle, council adopts ‘Option B’ to grant a once-off credit to customers whose accounts were either zero or in credit as detailed in the report, on the understanding that such grant will be implemented/effected when cashflows improved and there was need to review the situation at that stage”.
It was further resolved that the minutes “of this item be kept confidential and not open to inspection by any person other than a councillor or council official”.