Council slashes water tariffs

HARARE - Harare City Council (HCC) has slashed water tariffs, a development that relieves the overburdened ratepayers and possibly increases the local authority’s revenue collections.

In its 2014 standstill budget totalling $370,2 million approved yesterday, HCC finance and development chairperson Allan Markham said the development was in response to Harare residents’ submissions during pre-budget consultations.

“At pre-budget meetings, residents complained about certain tariffs that were high, hence the reduction of tariffs and charges,” Markhama said.

“We have taken note of the debilitating ‘start-up’ costs faced by our home industries and for similar considerations we feel we should reduce market fees.”

Fixed charges for domestic water  in high density areas has been reduced from $5 to $4,  for low density suburbs from $11 to $9 while industry charges came down by $30 to $50.

Sewer charges per fitment in both low density and high density areas were initially pegged at the same levels as fixed water charges and have both been reduced by the same margins. But commercial players now enjoy a $2 reduction from $15.

Traders at Mupedzanhamo Flea Market A are now expected to pay $60 from $80 while their counterparts in the B section will be forking out $45 instead of $65.

Mbare curios stands’ tariffs are now $15, wholesale market $25 and the old wholesale market $20.

Overnight guarded car park per square metre tariffs have been reduced from 18 cents to 10 cents.

Council  now receives $20 less from $80 for grinding mills on council land, $10 less from $60 for private ones.

The local authority now expects $15 in place of $20 from craft dealers trading on the city’s open spaces, $63 instead of $75 from Mukuvisi business units, $50 instead of $75 from respective food courts and 10 cents per square metre from home industries.

Glen View (GV) factory shells rates are now down to $63 from $75, GV food court occupants now pay $25 less from $75, Marlborough home industry charges are $90 per square metre from $100 while chicken co-operatives will pay $17 instead of $25.

The country’s biggest municipality has historically been struggling to collect significant revenue as clients were arguing the tariffs were too high for the service provided.

The situation was being worsened by high unemployment rates due to an ailing economy and the July debt write off which saw the local authority clearing $330 million from its books.

According to Markham, HCC was owed $212 million and owed its service providers $174 million as of September 30 this year.

Out of the total local authority’s debt, $100 million was for employment costs in the form of statutory deductions.

The local authority expects to collect $156 million by year end.

“Of the revenue, it is projected that about 48 percent will go towards employment costs while 52 percent will fund other projects and programmes,” he said.

Local pressure groups have been attacking the council for failing to adhere to the ratios set by its parent ministry demanding that only 30 percent of collected revenue be used to pay salaries.

Markham said though it has been “notoriously” difficult to achieve the set standards, the local authority has made notable progress in that direction.

“While the city continues to strive towards the achievement of the mandatory 30:70 ratio, it should be noted that employment costs continue to exhibit a downward trend,” said the councillor.

Statistics availed show that HCC’s salary bill went down from 96 percent to 48 percent between 2009 and 2013.

In 2014, salaries and allowances will remain at 48 percent next year.

In addressing incessant water shortages, billing problems and sewage waste management that have had extensive effects on HCC’s balance sheet as well as ratepayers’ health, Markham said several cost-cutting and revenue enhancing  measures will be used to eliminate the challenges.

“The department of water and sanitation targets to reduce water treatment chemicals cost by 40 percent (from $3 million per month through chemical replacements)…. Increase production from current 450 to 650 mega litres per day, reduce non-revenue water (from 60 percent) to 35 percent.”

At least $2 million was set aside for installation of wide and local area networks linking council’s revenue collection points, $2 million for zero litter campaign.

Other priority areas highlighted include road repair and maintenance, street lighting, refuse collection, systems connectivity and completion of hanging projects.

HCC’s expenditure for next year stands at $273,7 million and surplus is pegged at $900 000   plus a $95,6 million capital budget.

The biggest contributors to revenue budget in respective order are Harare water standing at $108 million, then property tax on $102 million, housing $11 million, clamping $9,9 million  and $23 million expected from refuse collection.

To boost the water account, HCC farms are now under the purview of the department while the city has also taken over the running of its schools from SDAs.

Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni described the budget as a “budget in practice”.

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