The Sunday Mail
THE Harare City Council is pursuing legislative reforms which will grant them powers to garnish accounts in-order to recover outstanding debts running into hundreds of millions.
Talking to Sunday Mail Online following his State of the City address recently, Mayor Herbert Gomba said they are intending to write to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing with their proposal.
“We will soon write to the parent ministry asking for that consideration since all our creditors have the same rights. It is wise to ensure we do the same on our debtors,” Councilor Gomba said.
“The garnish system will help local authorities to reduce debts and improve service. They are used in countries with more developed infrastructure meaning they helped in attaining that feat,” he said.
Garnishing orders allow the creditors to recover debt from third parties through taking money from the debtor’s bank account and/or from their salary.
Cllr Gomba said they are currently debating the idea which will also be discussed with other city councils around the country.
“We will be discussing with other mayors and chairperson about the need to garnish accounts, as an alternative to the current experiments we inherited which are not helping in the attainment of our development goals,” he said.
Harare City is owed $500 million by residents, $200 million by business entities and the other $200 by institutions.
To date the council has managed to collect $201 272 158,53.
While the city council expects to collect monthly revenue of $23 million, an average of $16 million is collected.
Previous attempts by the council to clear the debt backlog has seen it engage a debt collecting company, whose contract was terminated under a cloud of controversy.
Five million was recovered in the process. The mayor said this was halted following an understanding with rate payers that they would religiously pay their debts.
The Harare Residence Trust (HRT) said the mayor’s proposal showed that he is out of touch with the reality of the people.
HRT spokesperson, Mr Precious Shumba, said the city council was hiding behind the debt of ratepayers yet it was operating in extravagance, recruiting more workforce than it could pay.
“This means that the City of Harare is evidently under pressure to pay their bloated salaries and allowances bill, and at the same time they owe workers five months in salaries and wages.
“The residents are suffering from socio-economic hardships, and have no money to continue to fund the extravagance at Town House. His proposals are filled with greedy and command governance where he assumes that the solutions only lie in bringing in more money to the council coffers,” Mr Shumba said.