Coun­cils given go ahead to gar­nish Govt de­part­ments

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

THE Gov­ern­ment has given coun­cils the green light to take dras­tic mea­sures to re­cover debt even from its de­part­ments which owe lo­cal au­thor­i­ties var­i­ous amounts of money.

Coun­cils, through the Ur­ban Coun­cils As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe (Ucaz) and the Zim­babwe Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (Zilga), have in the past years tried to en­gage the Gov­ern­ment in a bid to re­cover nearly $1 bil­lion owed by var­i­ous Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. How­ever, these ef­forts have pre­vi­ously hit a brick wall with both the coun­cils and the Gov­ern­ment fail­ing to reach com­mon ground.

Coun­cils have at one time at­tempted to cut off wa­ter sup­plies from some Gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions. In an in­ter­view with Sun­day News, Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Pub­lic Works and Na­tional Hous­ing Min­is­ter, Cde July Moyo said coun­cils were aware of all mea­sures they could take to re­cover what was owed to them and he saw noth­ing wrong in coun­cils im­ple­ment­ing these strate­gies even on Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.

“The Gov­ern­ment like ev­ery debtor has to be looked at by the coun­cil and they know what to do. Both in the Ur­ban Coun­cils Act and Ru­ral Dis­trict Coun­cils Act, how to make a per­son pay is elab­o­rated and the coun­cils know it. They can gar­nish, they can do all kinds of things and if Gov­ern­ment was gar­nished by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties be­cause it is their right, I can’t say no as long as it is to re­cover what coun­cils are owed,” said Cde Moyo.

Ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 279 and 281 of the Ur­ban Coun­cils Act which deals pri­mar­ily with those li­able to pay rates gives lo­cal au­thor­i­ties the pow­ers to take any le­gal ac­tion against de­fault­ers.

“No le­gal pro­ceed­ings for the re­cov­ery of rates shall be in­sti­tuted against any per­son un­less they have failed within 14 days to com­ply with the de­mand served on him in terms of that sub­sec­tion re­quir­ing him to pay the amount stated therein; or failed within 30 days to com­ply with the de­mand served on him in terms of that sub­sec­tion re­quir­ing him to pay the amount stated therein, sub­ject to the max­i­mum amount pro­vided for in that sub­sec­tion,” reads part of the Act.

Last year it was re­ported that ma­jor lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are owed over $1 bil­lion in un­paid bills by res­i­dents, Gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try and com­merce, a sit­u­a­tion partly to blame for poor service de­liv­ery by most coun­cils.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Bu­l­awayo City Coun­cil re­port, the lo­cal au­thor­ity is owed a to­tal of $176 267 667 with Gov­ern­ment debtors ow­ing; $2 124 682, Paras­tatals and self-fi­nanc­ing Min­istries; $3 251 041, in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial debtors; $67 727 527 and res­i­dents owe; $103 164 417.

Of the Gov­ern­ment debtors, the Home Af­fairs Min­istry owes the most at $1 103 963 fol­lowed by Min­istry of Health and Child Care; $332 699, Min­istry of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion, Science and Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment owes; $228 606, the Min­istry of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Pub­lic Works and Na­tional Hous­ing which owes; $ 220 299, , De­fence Min­istry; $152 209, Min­istry of Jus­tice, Le­gal and Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs; $30 162, Min­istry of Pub­lic Service, Labour and So­cial Wel­fare; $20 685, Min­istry of Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment; $20 685, and the Ju­di­ciary Services Com­mis­sions owes the low­est fig­ure of $15 515.

Early last week, the Supreme Court of Zim­babwe gave lo­cal au­thor­i­ties the right to dis­con­nect wa­ter sup­plies to de­fault­ing con­sumers in or­der to safe­guard the rights of pay­ing con­sumers, bear­ing in mind that there are treat­ment and sub­se­quent pump­ing costs that are un­avoid­able.

The Court ruled that wa­ter dis­con­nec­tions by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties do not in any way con­tra­vene Sec­tion 77 of the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion which guar­an­tees the right to safe, clean and potable wa­ter.

Mean­while, Min­is­ter Moyo has ruled out any pos­si­bil­ity of debts write off say­ing res­i­dents should adopt a cul­ture of pay­ing for what­ever services they con­sumed. He said res­i­dents have to have a sense of own­er­ship of the towns and cities they stayed in and ap­pre­ci­ate that they have to pay for the services they con­sumed.

“In this new dis­pen­sa­tion there has never been a pro­nounce­ment of debt can­cel­la­tions, we are urg­ing our cit­i­zens that these are your towns and cities, and any area can only be made good by tax pay­ers do­ing what they ought to be do­ing and we are urg­ing that ev­ery­body has to play their part. We as Zim­bab­weans must have a cul­ture of pay­ing for what we con­sume, whether we are con­sum­ing it phys­i­cally or we are con­sum­ing it be­cause we are own­ing it.”

Cde July Moyo

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