Gweru residents, council face off over $1,8bn budget

GWERU residents have threatened to boycott paying rates after the council started implementing a $1,8 billion budget which was allegedly smuggled to the Local Government ministry without their consent.

BY BRENNA MATENDERE

Residents have threatened to resist paying bills until council justifies how it came up with a $1,8 billion budget — a massive jump from last year’s $46 million — and why it has started implementing it before approval by the parent ministry.

The 2020 budget has already seen services being hiked sharply with burial fees having been scaled up from $80 to $1 097 while council-owned two-roomed houses in Mkoba where tenants were paying $40 per month now have to fork out $600. Occupation certificate fee for home seekers was raised from $30 to $5 000 while beacon relocation costs went up to $9 000 from $150.

A fuel service station licence that is renewed annually rose from $3 000 to $84 000. Yearly licence fees for surgeries are now $40 000. Taxi licence fees rose from $85 to $1 419 per year.

In a letter addressed to acting town clerk Vakai Chikwekwe dated January 20, Gweru Residents and Ratepayers’ Association (GRRA) director, Cornelia Selipiwe, demanded an explanation on how the council arrived at the figures.

The letter obtained by Southern Eye yesterday, was copied to Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Larry Mavhima.

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“We request justification for tariffs figures in the budget and detailed breakdown of expenditure items for 2020 budget statement,” wrote Selipiwe.

He also asked the acting town clerk to justify exclusion of revenue incomes that will be received by council from different institutions like the government.

“We note the failure by council to identify income from other sources, for example capital expenditure grants from common sources eg Zinara, government grants, public private partnership deals and loans from banks that the council will access. We demand justification for the exclusions and a possible explanation as to whether the council is not expecting anything,” the letter read.

The GRRA leader also took Chikwekwe to task over implementing the budget before it its approval by Local Government minister July Moyo.

“We request justification of implementing the proposed budget statement eg the ongoing levying of trading and health licences before its (budget) approval which is in contravention of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) Section 288.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, council spokesperson, Vimbai Chingwaramusee said: “The council held budget consultative meetings with stakeholders and residents so that they can give their input. So that is what came out of the budget consultation meetings. We adjusted the budget in line with the prevailing economic situation.”
However, Selipiwe said the residents never agreed to the high figures in the budget.

“Our worry is also that council did not reveal income from its sources such as grants and money it will get from its premises like residential flats that it is leasing. Also the budget sent to the minister with high figures . . . is not the one which was presented to us during pre-budget consultations in wards,” he said.

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