Local Authority

Gweru financial plan get nod

MARTIN MAWAYA

GWERU-The Government has approved Gweru City Council’s 2024 budget of US$43.4 million, with stringent conditions attached.

Its revenue budget was pegged at US$37 million, with capital budget standing at US$6.4million.

Gweru Mayor, Councilor Martin Chivhoko, confirmed this development to The Midweek Watch.

“Our budget has been approved. I will issue a press release concerning that, and you will be advised soon,” he said.

In a letter addressed to the Acting Town Clerk, Livingston Churu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, John Bhasera, wrote, “The Minister of Local Government and Public Works, in terms of section 47(1) of the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19), has approved the 2024 budget estimates for Gweru city council”.

The ministry approved the budget under the condition that the local authority adheres to the Public Finance Management Act and the Urban Councils Act.

“Council must utilise the accounting package which is currently not optimised. Must deal with low revenue collection. Council to give a plan for updating arrears audits to comply with Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19) and the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15),” reads part of the approval letter.

Bhasera added that the local authority should regulate business interests in accordance with the provisions of the Urban Councils Act, as instructed by the ‘call to action’ blueprint.

Furthermore, he emphasized that stringent monitoring measures would be implemented quarterly throughout the year.

However, Gweru Residents Forum director, Charles Mazorodze, expressed his disappointment that the budget was approved without input from the residents.

He emphasized that the local authority should explore new strategies to address the debt issue instead of burdening residents with unaffordable bills.

“The stringent conditions are part and parcel of the central government’s oversight role to ensure that the local authority addresses the debt issue. However, increasing the budget while the debt continues to grow will not solve the problem,” he said.

Mazorodze further highlighted the need to address the root causes of the debt by evaluating the current billing model.

“We need to address the root causes of that debt by evaluating the current billing model, whether it is the best, given the socio-economic challenges that the residents are facing and also to consider if residents have the financial capacity to pay the exorbitant bills,” he added.

Mazorodze, who is also a local government expert stated that the local authority doesn’t have to bill for the sake of billing, but should instead “develop inclusive and comprehensive strategies” that reflect the economic realities on the ground.

He said these strategies will help address the service delivery challenges.

In the 2024 financial plan, the Midlands Provincial capital has allocated 40 percent of the budget towards the improvement of the water system, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives.

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