Harare should fix its billing system

HARARE - The Harare City Council has been urged to urgently attend to its chaotic billing system, which currently acts as a huge disincentive to residents who want to be in good payment terms with the municipality.

In a statement, the Harare Residents Trust (HRT), said council’s failure to properly manage its billing system, known as the BIQ, has been the genesis of most of the challenges that are causing endless headaches to the city fathers.

Harare has for many years struggled to perfect the system, with residents not getting their statements on time while some, if not most of the bills, are based on estimates.

The current system can also be easily manipulated by council employees to overcharge ratepayers or prejudice residents.

“The billing system being used by the Harare City Council is the root (cause) of all our challenges, which manifest in increasingly unsustainable debt. The city charges property tax (different per zone, and depends on stand size), water consumption, sewerage and refuse collection, which all differ according to suburban zone.

“High and low density areas have different charges,” HRT said.

HRT said the provision of municipal services should be largely non-commercial as mandated by their legislative and constitutional requirements hence they should be for non-profit.

The trust said because of council’s desire to introduce prepaid water meters, service delivery was slowing shifting towards commercialisation of water.

Combined Harare Residents Association chairperson Simbarashe Moyo said Harare’s billing system was a sham when compared to other cities.

He said there seems to be unwillingness by council to fix the billing system, leaving residents to suspect that it could be a deliberate ploy by the city’s employees to benefit from the chaos.

“GIZ once approached to finance the revamp of the system but council stalled the matter and frustrated them leading the sponsors with no choice but to pull out. There is more to this billing system than meets the eye,” Moyo said.

The BIQ System was introduced in low density areas in 2007 and in high density areas the following year.

It is subject to manipulation through the journal voucher system, auto credit, and rampant hacking of accounts by senior management, who have unhindered access to server passwords.

In a 2015 report, Auditor-General Mildred Chiri, noted that the city’s BIQ system was not fully developed, thus opening it up for fraud and mismanagement.

“My review and enquiries revealed that some modules in BIQ were not fully developed. Furthermore, the modules that were developed were not being fully utilised.
Information which was not in BIQ system was being maintained on excel spreadsheets.

“Recommendations are that council should ensure that all the modules in BIQ are fully developed and put to use,” Chiri said.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.