BY SILAS NKALA
THE Hwange Local Board (HLB) has only collected 15% of the targeted revenue during its on-going door-to-door debt recovery exercise.
This was revealed by the council’s acting finance director Abraham Phiri, who told NewsDay that the debt collection exercise had not been as successful as expected.
“The exercise is working, but it’s not collecting enough as we expected. What I can only say is that the debt collectors are doing what they can, but the fruits we are reaping leave a lot to be desired,” he said.
Phiri attributed the low debt recovery rate to the fact that it was implemented during the COVID-19 period when many households were struggling to make ends meet.
“Most businesses blamed their failure to pay for trading licences to the outbreak of COVID-19, which led to the reduction of operating hours or the complete shutdown of their businesses,” he said.
“Businesspeople are saying their businesses have been affected and they were finding it difficult to pay up their debts.”
HLB spokesperson Dumisani Nsingo said the local authority embarked on a door-to-door debt collection exercise from property owners as part of its recovery strategy.
“We have realised that a number of property owners have been absconding paying rates for quite some time,” he said.
“Others have been paying physically while observing COVID-19 regulations and protocols. Thus, through this exercise we are according property owners an opportunity or a service to pay at their doorsteps using various forms of payment.”
Nsingo said the debt collection exercise would be carried out until all properties within the local authority’s area of jurisdiction were covered.
“The debt collectors will be accepting down payments as well as allowing property owners to negotiate for payment plans,” he said.
The exercise was also extended to businesses, which are operating without valid trading licences.
“Businesses that have failed to pay for their trading licences within the stipulated period will be subjected to a penalty of 100% for each line of business for the lapsed year(s),” Nsingo said.
The Local Government ministry approved the HLB’s 2021 budget and emphasised the need for efficient billing.
Nsingo said late payments by ratepayers had resulted in the HLB failing to meet its service provision obligations.
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