Council income hit by grassroots corruption

Local authorities’ revenue collection systems have been hamstrung by grassroots corruption, losing huge amounts of potential income for the councils.

Harare deputy mayor, Councillor Thomas Muzuva.
Harare deputy mayor, Councillor Thomas Muzuva.

With the spotlight shining on top management following revelations that officials at Harare City Council were earning more than $36,999 a month, cases of employees engaged in corrupt activities continue to be reported.

The Marondera municipality recently suspended six employees over suspected fraud involving thousands of dollars. The six allegedly demanded bribes from defaulting ratepayers and illegally cancelled debts owed by some residents.

They could have cost the local authority $70,000 over the last decade.

Harare deputy mayor, Councillor Thomas Muzuva, told The Zimbabwean that these activities were also prevalent in the city but said their effect on revenue was limited.

“Even if a bribe is paid to stop a disconnection, the debts do not go away. The residents would still have to pay so, instead of paying that $30 bribe, it is better to bring the money to the council,” he said.

He urged residents to approach council with whatever money they had, saying that it was not the council’s intention to disconnect water supplies and that the city was willing to negotiate payment plans for debtors.

Muzuva said Harare was suffering mostly from corruption involving business licences.

“More than half the businesses operating in the city are doing so without paying council fees,” he said. He admitted that council employees were receiving bribes from businesses that didn’t satisfy council requirements.

Last year, The Zimbabwean came across two municipal officers, one in uniform and the other in plain clothes, demanding papers at one food outlet in downtown Harare.

They openly demanded a bribe and threatened to close down the shop and confiscate kitchen equipment if they were not paid. The shop operator told this paper that, in a day, “we can part with as much as $50”.

Shop operators said they feared that making reports to the council would only attract further victimisation and harassment.

Combined Harare Residents’ Association programmes chair Evernice Munando, said that senior officials in the council’s water and billing departments were involved in the corruption racket.

“I believe that they share these bribes once they get back to the office, because they are the ones who give out the names of potential victims and of those to be spared,” she said.

Munando said that “service delivery suffers because the money is not getting to the council”.

“Council is losing revenue through corruption by its employees. A person who owes $500 pays a bribe of $50 instead of paying that money into council coffers,” she said.

A Harare resident told this reporter that he received water from the council and no bills because he had paid off someone at the council to wipe his name from the system. The Kadoma mayor, Councillor Muchineripi Chinyanganya, said that in his city corruption by employees had become cancerous.

“In 2012, the council discovered a case in which two employees were issuing fake business operating licences. As a result we have now designed new licences, which make it difficult for anyone to duplicate,” he said. “Council gets revenue from licences, so this is a huge problem.”

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