USD BILLING: Harare City Council seriously angers residents


IN what seems to be a move by the corruption riddled opposition-led Harare City Council to raise money to fund CCC in the upcoming harmonised elections, the local authority is now charging rates in US dollars (USD).

The development comes at a time when the council has dismally failed on many fronts in service delivery with Harare residents making do with no council water and other necessities such as refuse collection, and good roads.

Council yesterday issued a statement notifying residents that starting today it would be charging all the rates and council services in USD.

“Notice is hereby given to all residents and stakeholders of City of Harare that effective 1 July 2023, the council bill will be denominated in USD and all outstanding arrears as at 30 June 2023 will be converted to USD using the prevailing exchange rate,” council said.

“Payment to the City of Harare will be accepted at the prevailing official exchange rate of the date of payment. All ratepayers (debtors) accounts will be maintained in USD and all billing will be done in USD based on the approved USD tariffs in the 2023 budget.

“The need to preserve value against exchange rate losses has necessitated this move. City of Harare thanks its valued residents for the support in funding service delivery through payment of rates and other services”.

Irate Harare residents expressed concern over the move saying the CCC-led council wants to cause panic ahead of elections.

The residents, through an apex body of residents’ associations, Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trust (ZNOART), said Government ministries, departments and agencies as well as local authorities should stand guided by a directive dated September 1, 2022 from Treasury to collect all fees and levies in Zimbabwe dollars only, except where specified.

ZNOART national chairperson Mr Shalvar Chikomba said the Treasury directive still applies to date and should not be set aside willy-nilly by local authorities.

“We would like to stress to all Government ministries, departments and agencies involved in local service provision that in principle the directive still stands. We clearly understand viability and cost recovery in public service provision but it is surprising that the USD charges are across the board, regardless of whether or not the service has a foreign currency component. This is contrary to Section 13(c) of the Public Finance Management (General) Regulations and also contrary to the Treasury’s directive that directly grants “exceptional approval.”

“We see no justice for ‘exceptional approval’ as there has been poor and non-existent service delivery, yet the management is living large. The USD is legal tender but payment for services within councils has been directed to use ZWL equivalent at plus or minus 10 percent of the prevailing interbank rate published by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe according to SI of 118A of 2022.”

Mr Chikomba said as residents they stand guided by two-way communication fundamentals which regards feedback as continuous and central to both councils and residents as enshrined in the Devolution and Decentralisation Policy of 2020.

He said councils must engage residents first, get their approval and input in principle when intending to review an approved budget.

“Councils should not apply dollarisation clandestinely because there is no law in Zimbabwe that allows billing residents in USD when the budget was adopted in ZWL. The switching of currencies is in contravention of Public Finance Management Act and amounts to budget tampering.”

— Herald

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