The government is working on a payment plan to settle over $8 million owed to the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) by state departments.
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo revealed this after meeting with council officials to discuss the contentious issue last week.
BCC town clerk Middleton Nyoni said Chombo pledged to take the issue with the government departments owing the local authority and come up with a payment plan.
Chombo’s visit came after council resolved to send a delegation to meet Finance minister Tendai Biti over non-payment of services to council and discuss how they could recover the debt, which stood at $8 350 041,71 as at July 31.
“We met Minister Chombo and discussed that issue of the money owed to council by government. He promised to go back to the various ministries that owe us and come up with a plan to pay back the money,” said Nyoni.
He said Chombo however, did not give a specific time-frame in which he would organise a meeting with the ministries.
However, Mayor Thaba Moyo expressed confidence the proposed payment plan by Chombo would see council recovering money owed by the government.
“It seems the issue will be addressed. We had a meeting with the minister and talked about the issue of the government debt and arrangements were made to solve the issue,” said Moyo.
Nyoni said Chombo called on council not to put strenuous measures against defaulters, especially during the festive season.
“He said we should try and talk to defaulters nicely so that they could pay their rates.
“He said during the Christmas period, the residents should be allowed to celebrate Christmas without stress and the mayor in response said council always made sure that water cuts were relaxed during this period,” said Nyoni.
According to the latest council report, deputy mayor Amen Mpofu was concerned over the government’s indebtedness and said the payments made by various ministries were minimal.
Council as a result arranged for a delegation comprising councillors and council officials to engage Biti, in view of council’s cash flow problems.
According to the same report, some councillors suggested that disconnection of water supplies to government premises might yield desired results.