Relief as government starts paying off debt owed to Masvingo municipality

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By Tonderai Saharo

GOVERNMENT has started paying off part of the $20m plus debt long owed to the struggling Masvingo City Council which now plans to install prepaid water meters within the former’s buildings to try and control a runaway debt accruing from unpaid rates.

The giant debt has often been cited as one of reasons council remained financially hamstrung as government seemed to have abandoned its rate payment obligations.

Insiders say council was struggling to maintain service delivery through the little that was being paid by residents, leaving the local authority with nothing to save for capital projects.

They said the government debt had virtually paralysed council operations and the payment came as a relief to the authority.

The Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police are among some of the departments that were heavily indebted to council with a combined $10 million owed.

Currently, government departments, business and residents owe the local authority in excess of $44 million with government responsible for bulk of the debt.

According to latest council minutes, the finance and general purpose committee said it was grateful to government after it released a substantial amount towards payment of its debt, without stating figures of the pay off.

“The collection rate for the month of October was at 140 percent and the increase was a result of set off received from government during the month.

“Council had received substantial amounts from government towards payment of amount owed by the army and the committee appreciated the receipts from government,” reads part of the report.

As part of minimising none payment of bills by government and other institutions, the committee said it was in the process of purchasing prepaid smart water meters to be installed on these premises.

Turning to other debtors the committee said all defaulting rate payers have been given up to the end of this December to make an effort to pay their arrears or risk being handed over to debt collectors.