RDCs count the cost of land levy loss

MUTARE - Rural district councils (RDCs) have slammed the transfer of the collection of land development levy in resettlement areas from RDCs to the Lands ministry, saying the move was starving them of revenue.

The changes were ushered in through the Public Finance Management Amendment Act, 2016 gazetted as Act No. 6 of 2016 on October 28, 2016, making key amendments to the interaction between responsible ministries in central government and its “public entities” or statutory bodies and government-controlled companies over which ministries exercise oversight.

Giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee at a local hotel last week, Mutare rural and Nyanga district councils bemoaned the failure of the Lands ministry to remit the collected funds to them. 

“Where we used to get around $100 000, we have only managed to collect $4 000 and that has adversely affected our capacity to deliver services,” Shepherd Chinaka, Mutare rural district council chief executive officer said.

“I think the challenge is that they are still setting up system but I’m hopeful that once they have functional systems the money will soon come through.”

Nyanga CEO Zephaniah Jaravaza said his council has also lost access to all properties on former commercial farming areas.

“The Finance Amendment Act has denied us access to a pool of funds we used to rely on,” Jaravaza said.

The Nyanga council boss said this was, however, affecting the new communities more as they needed schools, clinics and appropriate road infrastructure.

Meanwhile, both rural councils said they were still suffering the consequences of the 2013 directive to write off ratepayers’ debts, a campaign gimmick he said rewarded bad debtors while punishing consistent ratepayers, breeding apathy.

“From that time, our ratepayers stopped paying since the order to cancel debt by minister of Local Government in 2013. This gave us a huge dent because everyone just stopped paying in anticipation of repeat in the next election period,” Jaravaza said.

He said they lost over $500 000 due to the directive.

“When we wrote off $560 000, it was a significant amount for a small district like ours,” Jaravaza said.

The Nyanga council CEO said the depressed revenue had thrown them into debt, and they were struggling to amortise debts to statutory bodies such as Zimra.

Chinaka said they face the same challenges but presented a healthier financial outlook that invited a round of applause from parliamentarians.

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