CHRA Initial Response to City of Harare 2011 Budget proposals
Friday, 03 December 2010
The City of Harare 2011 proposed budget has been announced and residents have raised their concern at the increased service charges (especially water); a situation that they say will further compromise the health and livelihoods of many as most residents are already struggling to pay their bills.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is also concerned about the implications that the proposed budget, if it sails through, will have on the residents of Harare.
It must be noted from the onset that the current earnings of the Harare residents, especially civil servants, let alone the informal traders, are already set below the poverty datum line. It therefore continues to baffle the mind as to how the City imagines residents will afford the increases when they are failing to put food on their tables and afford other services such as health, education even burial.
1. The access to social services especially water and health will be further worsened for the ordinary resident (i.e., unemployed, disabled, women, senior citizens, HIV-Aids orphans, people living with HIV-Aids, youth, informal traders). Hence considering the recent cholera outbreak which the City and Government could not control had it not been for the international support, serious effort should have been made towards ensuring access and not increasing tariffs.
2. In addition, the social safety nets have been weakened by the increases in that the meager earnings will be channeled towards municipal services (rentals and rates) in the absence of a comprehensive and stakeholder inclusive programme that promote and rebuilds the informal trading which constitutes about 70% of the city’s population.
3. The increases will further complicate the relations between residents and City of Harare given that residents have not been content with the current services charges and the billing system.
4. The issue of salaries remains a pain as not only the 30% threshold is busted but also that there is lack of a serious and efficient Human Resources Audit to deal with redundant workforce and ghost workers.
In the light of the above we do recommend the following;
1. The City needs to improve the billing system to attract more revenue rather than increase fees and collect much less. Residents must not be overcharged or double-billed.
2. To exhaustively deal with the water problem, the City needs to reflect and incorporate the allocation proposed in the National Budget and be transparent with regards to donations being made by the international players in rehabilitating water, sanitation and health.
3. City of Harare must engage Central Government in making them pay the estimated debt of US140 million instead of disconnecting water to poor and vulnerable residents.
4. City of Harare must sever the agreement with EASIPARK, a foreign owned company which is fleecing residents through exorbitant parking fees. In essence, the city must run the business itself and reduce the parking fees/charges to have an alternative source of revenue. Should they subcontract, it should be to a genuine (not briefcase) indigenous company and be in such a way that residents shall be protected from punitive charges.
5. To cut down on water charges, the City must expeditiously deal with the bursts of pipes especially of clean water 40% of which is lost through seepage and runoff.
6. As architectures of the budget, the City (and Minister) as an interested party must not deliberate over the objections that residents and ratepayers shall raise pertaining the budget.
7. Newspaper adverts alone are not sufficient to educate and inform the public. Instead the city must engage the residents and stakeholders in unpacking these figures to set priorities and also get their views on the proposed budget.
Lastly, it must be reiterated that the core business of local business is to provide social services and not make profit. As public service providers, City of Harare and all other local authorities must be cognizant of the socio- economic realities obtaining in the country. CHRA remains committed to advocating for good, transparent and accountable local governance as well as lobbying for quality and affordable municipal services on a non partisan basis.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 December 2010 )