HCC writes off $2m debt

HARARE - The Harare City Council (HCC) has lost more than $2 million to Alliance Media (AM) after it was compelled to write off the company’s debt due to absence of a record.

According to the local authority’s finance and development committee minutes, the write-off was due to lack of a billboard register.

Last year, councillors resolved to pull down all billboards belonging to AM because of outstanding payment dating back to 2013.

Acting finance director, Tendai Kwenda, said the department of urban planning services was responsible for administering billboards in Harare.

“In 2013, when the administration was transferred to the department of engineering services, where the anomaly was noted, wherein council and AM agreed to conduct an audit of its advertising signs,” he said.

Kwenda said the audit resulted in an agreement between HCC and AM, which spelt out their outstanding debt and the number of billboards to be billed, including tariffs.

He added that the agreement was a compromise position as council’s records were in shambles and could not be relied on.

“Consultations were made with the Chamber Secretary on whether the claims against the company could be sustained given inadequate records and was advised that council could lose the case as it had no evidence to prove its claim forcing the request to write off the debt,” Kwenda said.

A 2015 audit of billboards in Greater Harare revealed that council does not know how many advertisements are in the city, resulting in arrears of more than $4,18 million.

In audit committee minutes circulated during a full council meeting, the audit was conducted as a way of finding out whether billboards had been erected in approved places and were well managed.

“It was noted that there was poor management of billboard records since the department could not avail the billboards register.

“The committee observed that the division had the potential of generating significant amount of revenue yet it was short staffed and manned by one person,” read part of the minutes.

In August, council pulled down 20 billboards and defaced 21 as companies who failed to pay rentals for the spaces owed millions of dollars.

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