by VENERANDA LANGA
HARARE mayor Herbert Gomba yesterday appealed to Parliament to make legislative reforms that will give powers to the city council to execute garnishing orders just like the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to recover over $800 million it is owed by ratepayers.
Gomba had appeared before the Felix Mhona-led Budget and Finance Portfolio Committee to give oral evidence on devolution financing, where he also disclosed that there was need to revamp the tax systems to ensure a percentage of taxes from businesses goes to local authorities to enable them to finance water and road infrastructure development which is currently in a shambles.
Council finance director Stanley Ndemera said: “There is an $800 million debt owed to council. We cannot recover that money unless we go through the courts. However, we would like the laws to be reviewed so that they allow us to act as Zimra to be able to garnish institutions that owe us because those debts date back to 10 years ago.”
Gomba then added: “For example, we visited the United States Stanford County and the commissioner of that county has garnishing powers. We appeal to Parliament for tax reforms on behalf of all local authorities because in each local authority there are businesses and mining companies and any tax reforms to that effect will enable those businesses to also benefit.”
Extending garnishee powers to council would help it to recover the $800 million so that the city improves on service delivery, Gomba said.
Harare town clerk Josiah Chisango said there was need for assistance at national level for improved access to water in the capital, especially to ensure that Kunzvi Dam and Sabi Dam bring relief in terms of water to the capital and its dormitory towns of Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa.
“The only tax that we collect is property tax and what we collect from property tax is not enough for us to revamp the infrastructure. We have other taxes charged on businesses which we do not have access to and if a percentage of that can come to HCC, we can develop our infrastructure,” Chisango said.
Acting chamber secretary Charles Kandemiri said Harare only collected $15 million monthly against $73 million expenditure, of which $45 million of that was for water cleaning chemicals.
“That is a serious mismatch and the budget has not changed. We are still operating on a 2018 budget on 1:1 rate, which means we are collecting 1:1, but spending at 1:20 rate and that does not work,” Kandemiri said.
The council said if the Public Finance Management Act is amended to include devolution financing, it would assist local authorities to pass their budgets on time instead of having to wait for two to three months for the Local Government ministry to approve their budgets.
MPs then asked the mayor to explain the controversy behind the US$144 million Chinese loan.
Gomba said the council only got US$72 million of that $144 million because government owed the Chinese a lot of money. He said during the era of former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, who had appointed a commission for Harare, a decision was made that vehicles should be bought using part of the US$72 million loan.