Local Authority

Gweru grapples with $5b funding gap

MARTIN MAWAYA

City of Gweru is facing an “existential crisis” caused by massive funding shortfalls due to economic turmoil ravaging the country.

This was revealed in a 2024 pre-budget report presented to stakeholders last Friday by Finance Assistant Director Owen Masimba.

Masimba warned that services face $5.1 billion funding gap as the monthly total unavoidable expenditure sours to $15.9 billion against a collection of $10.8b.

The local authority is heavily depended on rates and grants in the provision of service delivery.

However, “due to economic hardships residents have been failing to consistently meet council obligations and there has been poor disbursement of grants by the central government.

These factors have immensely contributed to financial constraints and unreliable service provision,” added Masimba.

Currently, the local authority monthly revenue collection stands at $10. 796, 704,039.

The report further indicated that creditors payments, salaries, electricity and taxes, gobble most of the council’s funds.

On Creditor’s payments, the City of progress fork out $5.4 billion, salaries $3.2 billion and electricity $2.8 billion, whilst on taxes they spend $1.4 billion per month.

Resultantly, service delivery is constantly crippled by shortages of equipment and manpower.

There are 2 compactor trucks instead of 10, 25 skip bins against the prescribed 43 needed in an ideal situation as well as 2 fire engines instead of 6.

Above that, the local authority does not have labour overseers which resulted in “double allocation of work due to labour shortages,” reads the report.

A track by The Midweek Watch established that the Midlands capital has lined up various business ventures to salvage itself from financial challenges, however they failed to take off due to lack of capital injection.

These projects were initiated under the Business Investment Unit aimed at mitigating financial constraints at town house.

They include Go Beer, farming, Progress  manufacturing, quarry mining, (Go Aqua) water bottling, Gweru solar farm, waste to energy project, garment manufacturing and Clonsila Truck Inn.

Cornilia Selipiwe, Executive Director from Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) said the new Council has an uphill task of finding other funding streams and enhance its revenue inflow.

He said improved rate of compliance from residents is important in boosting revenue inflows, hence the need for a “shift from council in terms of how they run their business”.

Selipiwe also implored city fathers to engage all stakeholders so that there is buy-in and sense of ownership.

“Council needs to improve its relationship with residents and the business community so that they can also play their part under corporate social responsibility,” added Selipiwe.

A local government expert with the Midlands State University, Virginia Makanza said council should utilize the 20-roomed Mayor’s mansion, which has become a white elephant by getting rentals.

She added that the mansion is “one of the low hanging fruits” that can be  turned into a money spinning venture by converting it to a conference Centre or hotel.

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