Infrastructure fund introduced

Government has set up a multi-million-dollar fund to help urban councils upgrade infrastructure and public services in their jurisdictions.

The revolving fund — administered by the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe already has US$5 million and will expand progressively.

Loan eligibility criteria include performance improvement plans, audited financial statements and human resources capacity to implement targeted projects.

A substantive town clerk and treasurer are also pre-requisites.

Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing principal director (urban local authorities) Ms Erica Jones told The Sunday Mail, “We are finalising negotiations with IDBZ for them to manage the account on our behalf. Criteria that local authorities are required to follow (when borrowing) are also being tied up. I am not at liberty to discuss the interest rates that will apply, but these will be Government rates as we wouldn’t want to apply high rates that end up bankrupting the councils.

“The fund is still small – US$5 million. We, however, hope that as the economy improves, it will grow and we will be able to give authorities bigger amounts.”

Urban planning expert Mr Percy Toriro said, “It is good when local authorities get funding from Government. In terms of interest rates, these kinds of loans are ideal as compared to those from commercial institutions.

“It is a timely intervention which will improve service delivery and help avert potential diseases such as cholera and typhoid.”

A number of Zimbabwe’s cities and towns have dilapidated infrastructure which, coupled with expanding populations, continue to hamper provision of basic services like potable water supply and sanitation.

Performance gaps, among them treated water losses, have been identified in 32 jurisdictions, with authorities now scaling up remedial action.

Donors such as the Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund have been helping rehabilitate water and sewer infrastructure.

The Fund’s 2015 report showed that most infrastructure in greater Harare was aged and dilapidated, resulting in poor service delivery.

It was noted that local authorities mainly relied on ratepayers for infrastructure repairs and replacement.

In his 2018 National Budget Statement, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa laid out a plan to address the situation.

Minister Chinamasa said, “The 2018 budget will set aside US$5 million as seed capital to the fund, which will be managed through the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe.

“Government, with support from the World Bank, undertook a Service Level Benchmarking (SLB) exercise in 32 urban local authorities, aimed at reversing the deteriorating service delivery by councils over the years.

“Through this exercise, councils have been able to identify performance gaps as well as develop performance improvement plans focusing on the water and sanitation sector, particularly the high water losses that exist in local authorities of around 60 percent.

“Implementation of identified interventions remain a challenge due to limited financial capacity of councils.”

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