HomeLocal NewsStrange equation: dry taps = harsh bills

Strange equation: dry taps = harsh bills

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Oscar Tembo (35) has lived in Mbare since early childhood.
His lifestyle has been dogged by threats of health hazards because of persistent water shortages over the years.
Tembo’s woes have been further compounded by the council’s recent decision to cut water supplies because he has failed to settle an outstanding $750 bill.
The city fathers have declared war on domestic and commercial defaulters.
In Chitungwiza, the municipality is already disconnection water supplies to force defaulters to pay.
Residents in Harare said they were not resisting paying but would like the city to issue realistic bills that took into consideration their ability to pay.
“I don’t think their billing system is fair,” said Darlington Maisiri of Highfield. “Some of us have bills of over $500 and the council is not even able to explain how they came up with such figures. I’m not running an industry at my house.”
He said the council was punishing residents to raise money for “outrageous and unjustified salaries”.
When Harare awarded its employees a hefty salary increment which saw the least paid worker pocketing at least $300, there was public outcry because there was no justification considering their coffers were dry and service delivery appalling.
But of late, the municipality has been struggling to raise money to settle its huge salary bill, resulting in residents to suspect the latest blitz was a fund raising ploy.
The council’s move flies in the face of a decision by the Water Resources Development and Management minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo not to disconnect water supplies to residents.
“Government’s policy has not changed and all municipalities should not disconnect water, especially for primary purposes,” he said, adding that it was the state’s obligation to ensure vulnerable customers were protected,” Nkomo said.
He added: “One can not be disconnected (from the water supply) simply because he is poor.”
Marilyn Mandeya of Chitungwiza said they were not able to afford the money the council was billing and – since the introduction of the multiple currency system – they had been paying $30 as directed by government.
“Although I’ve been faithful with my bills, paying $30 every month, the council continued to debit my account and now the debt is $430,” she said.
Many residents argued they were failing to pay the huge amounts because of other obligations such as food, rent, electricity and school fees.
“If they have to disconnect us, then let them go ahead. But I wonder how that is going to help,” fumed Kennon Jambaya of Mufakose.
“If I don’t have that kind of money, then I don’t have it. In any case, we have been going for long periods without water.”
Sometime early this year, the Harare Residents Trust complained about the appalling service delivery to a Parliament Committee on Local Government, Rural and Urban Development.
“They prioritise high salaries and purchase top of the range vehicles for heads of departments, while neglecting the needs of the residents,” Precious Shumba, the coordinator said.
The residents called on the city to prioritise service provision such as refuse collection, water and sewer infrastructure rehabilitation, purchase of maintenance of refuse trucks and realistic rates before resources are allocated towards huge salary perks to head of departments and administration.
Shumba said the city’s billing system was inconsistent with the state of the economy.
“Residents want to pay, but they are concerned with the extra-ordinarily high salaries that head of departments at council are getting,” he said.
He added that if the city fathers did not capitulate to their demands, they would urge their members to delay payment.
Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda – who is said to be getting a monthly entertainment allowance of $1 200 – recently admitted there was no solution to the water crisis yet.
He said: “If Kunzvi dam is commissioned today, it will not give us enough water for the city,” adding that while the city required 1300 mega litres a day to meet demand, council was only able to provide 640 mega litres.
“It is a shocker to many who have been thinking Harare City Council was not being effective in addressing the perennial water problems,” he said. “Our director for water Christopher Zvobgo has a difficult task to try and equitably share water among the residents.”
The city is currently conducting a human resources audit following revelations there could be “ghost workers” on their payroll.
Another audit carried out at Chitungwiza by Prosoft Human Resources revealed that the dormitory town’s municipality was overstaffed, with a manager to worker ratio of 1:1.
Chitungwiza’s salary bill is estimated at $700 000 against a monthly revenue of $800 000.
According to the report, there were too many people in management while various departments had overlapping responsibilities.
The report read in part: “As a consequence, the municipality has tall structures and is evidently overmanned. It is recommended that departmental structures be re-examined with a view to eliminate over and under laps with the ultimate objective being to ensure human resources are effectively utilised.”
The report said some posts should be abolished while others realigned to stop duplication of duties.

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