GOVERNMENT’s $36 million debt to local authorities in outstanding water and rates payments has stalled service delivery in most cities with the Local Government ministry standing as one of the major debtors, NewsDay has learnt.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed the government debt, while addressing Senate last Thursday saying the arrears stood at $36,8 million as of March 31, 2016.
The latest disclosure came as Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere continues to accuse opposition MDC-T-led councils of applying poor revenue collection systems and service delivery.
The major creditors are Masvingo ($16 671 786), Harare ($16 499 618) and Bulawayo ($1 940 044). The least is Mvurwi Town Council at $21 205.
“Arrears to local authorities are mainly on account of the mismatch between consumption and our ability to pay, given our limited budget capacity,” he said.
“Treasury has and will, however, continue to progressively reduce line ministries and departments’ arrears to local authorities by knocking off outstanding statutory tax obligations against these arrears.”
Chinamasa was responding to Senator David Chimhini who had demanded to know government’s debt payment plan to local authorities to enable them to improve service delivery and pay staff salaries.
According to Chinamasa, the major debtor ministries and departments are the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Air Force of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS), government health institutions and the Local Government ministry.
“Treasury is collaborating with both government ministries and department and local authorities on mechanisms of managing the consumption of water services, cognisant of structural infrastructural leakages and institutional wastage.
“We are also encouraging, for instance, that they put in place prepaid meters. Mr President Sir, cognisant of the core mandate of local authorities in terms of service delivery to communities, Treasury will continue prioritising payment to local authorities within the available budget capacity,” Chinamasa said.