Council terminates debt collector's contract

HARARE - Harare City Council (HCC) has terminated WellCash Debt Collectors (WellCash)’s contract following mounting pressure from residents and lobby groups.

The resolution comes after Community Water Alliance gave the debt collector a three-day ultimatum to vacate council district offices from where they were now operating.

According to minutes of a full council meeting held last Thursday, the contract between the two parties was valid from November 15, 2016 to November 15, 2017.

“That subject to approval of resolution . . . , the Memorandum of Agreement between HCC and WellCash regarding debt collection services be and is hereby terminated,” read the minutes.

The minutes further stated that after the contract termination, the local authority will create an internal debt collection unit to undertake the city’s debt collection duties.

Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni confirmed the development saying they were now looking at the modalities to exit the contract.

He said the cancellation was due to the tough socio-economic conditions prevailing in the country, which had forced many to lag behind in payments.

“The model of using debt collectors has effectively been parked. The reasons behind our exit from the contract with WellCash are clearly stated in the communication I gave the acting town clerk Josephine Ncube some months ago. “

Earlier, Manyenyeni had advised Ncube to stop using debt collectors, arguing that the approach was brutal, arrogant and largely targeted the vulnerable lower income suburbs.

“What we want to do now is capacitate in-house debt collection strategies which we can control. Debt collection is the lifeline of council and where there is no money, the city fails to exist,” he said.

Community Water Alliance programmes manager Hardlife Mudzingwa said the termination was long overdue.

He said though the dues owed to HCC had grown to a very large figure, most of the debts were based on estimates.

“People were being charged for water they did not receive and refuse removal which never happened. We are not saying that people should not pay; however, we want council to ensure that residents pay for the services that they get as per their social contract with the local authority. There has to be an understanding of inability to pay and unwillingness to pay,” Mudzingwa said.

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