BULAWAYO City Councils’ $2,7 billion budget for 2020 which saw rates and tariffs shoot by 716% has been dealt a huge blow by the coronavirus pandemic, with mayor Solomon Mguni predicting tough times ahead.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Bulawayo has not recorded a COVID-19 case to date, according to the Health and Child Care ministry. Mguni told Southern Eye yesterday that unbudgeted funds have been diverted to combating the possible outbreak of the disease.
Service delivery will suffer the most “going forward,” Mguni said, arguing this is because “our finances have suffered a huge knock; and for months to come” a situation that might force the council to seek a supplementary budget.
“It was unbudgeted for yet we need resources to be diverted to fighting and mitigating the impact of coronavirus, and worse still, under our poor performing economy where the majority are informal traders,” Mguni said.
“We are committing unbudgeted funds towards this pandemic; our coffers will suffer a huge knock in the months to come. People are obliged to pay rates, but then the question is with what? It will take a lot of time for the businesses, informal traders and others to recover to start paying their bills.
Council has been relying on donations from individuals and companies in its COVID-19 fight.
Ratepayers were already clashing with council over its $2,7 billion budget, urging the local authority to instead look for alternative revenue streams instead of punishing them with unaffordable charges.
In a memo to council last month, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) called on city fathers to stop funding the Bulawayo City Football Club and re-direct the resources to services that benefit residents.
“There is need for the BCC to urgently come up with alternative revenue sources. There is need to cut down on unnecessary expenditure and reduce overtime expenditures,” the BPRA wrote to the council.
“In 2019, residents spoke against the continued funding of the Bulawayo City Football Club which is draining the council’s coffers and bringing little to zero benefit for the residents. While grooming local talent is a noble idea, its timing is not strategic…”