Gweru residents demand pro-poor budget

GWERU residents are demanding that council maintains a standstill budget for the third year running in 2019, saying they were too poor to support any increase in rates.

BY BRENNA MATENDERE/STEPHEN CHADENGA

“We have held several meetings with the residents in the various wards of the City of Gweru to hear their aspirations in terms of service delivery and obviously the coming 2019 budget,” Cornelia Sipiwe, the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association chairperson said.

“What has been emerging regularly is the fact that residents are being overwhelmed by the economic hardships and cannot cope with any increments council may impose on rates for 2019. So they are saying we want a pro-poor budget.”

The council last increased rates in 2016.

The residents also want the city fathers to cut on expenditure, particularly on personnel.

“There are issues like collection of garbage, grading of roads, supply of clean safe water among other issues of service delivery that the residents are saying should take priority over allowances and salaries of council employees in the 2019 budget. All in all, the residents are saying let’s not have a budget that will overburden the already cash-strained ratepayers,” Selipiwe said.

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The council’s budget for 2018 budget, at $38 million was lower than the 2017 budget of $40 million after it froze salary increments. However, a survey on municipal budgeting and financial management presented last month by a consortium of 10 organisations led by Danish Church Aid researcher, Davison Muchadenyika indicated that its wage bill for 2017 had gobbled more resources than service delivery.

In 2016, Gweru spent 44,38% of revenue on salaries, but the figure rose to 66,3% last year.

In 2016, indirect salaries and allowances claimed $5 311 783. Direct salaries and allowances took $9 443 171, while negligible amounts went to infrastructure and other services.

Meanwhile, Gweru City Council has so far raised $12 080 149 for the period January to August 2018 against a targetted $38 533 380 for the year ending December 2018, a budget feedback report for the period ending August 31 reveals.

According to the report the top three income streams including water sales, rates and supplementary charges and fees and penalties were expected to raise a $35 902 630, but the collections fell below half that figure.

“As at 31 August 2018 total actual income collected came to $12 080 149 and this represented 48,54% of the expected income for the eight months. During these eight months the average monthly collection came to $1 510 018,” part of the report read.

“While the monthly commitments came to $2 265 171, the average monthly collections of $1 510 018 leaves a shortfall of $755 153.”

The report indicated that council is owed $62 852 380 by residents and industry, an increase from $55 548 650 as at December 31, 2017.

Closed industries owed $4 543 537.

“The mismatch between commitments and cash received has a negative impact on all council operations and the level and quality of services being provided to residents, clients and other stakeholders,” the report reads.

The report also noted that the total wage bill per month stands at $1 229 780.

As a result of the financial constraints council is failing to acquire refuse collection equipment, service stands, repair roads, provide efficient fire-fighting services and is facing delays in procurement of materials and pipes to attend to water and sewerage bursts.

Council should identify other revenue streams and projects to generate more revenue, the report stated.

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