Gwanda Town Council has engaged private debt collectors to recover about $4 million in unpaid rates, especially by the local business community and government departments.
Gwanda mayor, Councillor Lionel DeNecker, told NewsDay the arrears had paralysed council operations and compromised service delivery.
“Most businesses and government departments owe council substantial amounts which they are reluctant to pay. As such we are checking on the performance of such businesses and departments. If we notice they are performing well, debt collectors will be sent to them because there would be no reason for them to fail to pay,” said DeNecker.
He said the arrears had also affected council workers’ salaries on several occasions, resulting in delayed salary payments.
DeNecker said the local authority had not yet paid its employees last month’s salaries.
“We do not normally take ratepayers to court over unpaid rates, but it is surprising that some companies take us to court even over small debts we owe them. We are also worried by the government departments’ attitude of unwillingness to settle their debts all the time yet when we fail to deliver services they make a lot of noise,” he said.
“At the moment, Zinwa says we owe them $3 million which we still dispute considering the fact that some of their main water meters are not working and most of their readings are still based on estimates. We will not recognise the bills until all the meters have been repaired,” said Denecker.
Last week, the council had its property attached by the deputy sheriff over a $35 000 debt owed to the National Social Security Authority (Nssa).
DeNecker said Nssa, on the other hand, owed the council $50 000.
“We have since engaged lawyers from Mabikwa and Hikwa Legal Practitioners to seek reversal of the attachment as it is very unfair considering the fact that they owe us more than we owe them,” he said.