HARARE residents have urged the local authorities to fully embrace information communication technology (ICT) and computerise their water distribution and billing systems to curb revenue leaks.
In a statement, Combined Harare Residents’ Association executive director Mfundo Mlilo said information communication technology use in revenue collection could also enhance citizen participation service delivery.
“The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority estimates that by December 2013 Zimbabwe had a mobile device perpetration of 103,5% or 13 518 887 users representing an increase of one million users in less than one year, and these statistics are telling on the unprecedented growth in the use of ICTs in Zimbabwe,” said Mlilo.
“Unfortunately, we have seen no visible interest by the City of Harare and other local authorities to harness this growing interest in ICTs to deliver quality services and enhance their operations,” he said.
Mlilo said there were leakages and illicit activities in revenue collection due to bill manipulation with over 1000 reports of billing complaints received in 2013 alone with residents alleging that their bills were either inflated or there had been no change in balance despite evidence of consistent payments.
“This manipulation happens at various levels. Firstly, as noted residents payments at local offices are in noted instances not credited to their accounts thereby swindling them of thousands of dollars. Secondly, residents who have high bills are sometimes asked to pay bribes so that the officials can manipulate the system and reduce outstanding amounts.
“Thirdly, most of the bills that the city charges are from estimate meter readings, which means that residents are being billed using fake figures that obviously prejudice them. The city has responded by proposing to install prepaid water meters.”
He said since 50% of water was lost through leakages each day, it was imperative to adopt massive ICT mechanisms to detect and manage water leaks as managing them could increase end user water generation capacity by over 500 megalitres a day and increase revenue by a million dollars per year.
The World Bank proposes that effective use of ICTs can be used to promote transparency and accountability. ICTs can help improve the access to information by ordinary citizens. This information includes information on tenders adopted by council including prices of goods purchased, information on government performance and expenditures, information on meetings with councilors, health alerts, and information on budgets for example,” Mlilo said.