BCC 2022 budget: Residents demand more clarity

By Lulu Brenda Harris and Senzeni Ncube

Ward 2 and 13 residents have rejected the proposed $25 billion budget for 2022 saying the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) had not satisfactorily answered their concerns.

Ward 2 comprises Sauerstown, Tegela, Norwood, Richmond, Windsor Park, Glenville, Trenance North, Highmount, 100 Acre Lot, Harrisvale, QueensPark West, Kingsdale, Queensdale, Northgate, Northend, Newsmansford, Lobenvale, Northlynne, Jungle, Kennilworth, Rowena, Umguza Agric Lots, Sub 15 and 16 Trenance.

While ward 13 comprises Iminyela, Mabuthweni, Pelandaba, and Kelvin North.

The proposed budget for 2022 is ZWL$24,741,154,503, which comprises a revenue budget of ZWL$16, 834, 864,215 and a capital budget of ZWL$7,906,290,288.

Speaking in separate virtual budget consultation meetings via WhatsApp held Thursday, the residents took BCC to task saying they could not accept the proposed budget as officials had not explained the budget in full.

“No, we need to exhaust the questions herein and have satisfactory answers/explanations, otherwise you are simply asking us to rubber-stamp the budget which then won’t be helpful at the end of the day, We don’t second the budget,” residents echoed.

“In future submit your budget information to the residents a week before the actual day of discussions so that we have adequate time to study it if there is nothing sinister that is being hidden.”

Residents said looking at the proposed figures, a huge chunk would be spent on salaries and allowances for BCC staff, which was unacceptable to residents who have seen a total decline in ‘all’ services in the past few years.

“As I studied your proposed budget 2022, pages 2-3/45 clearly indicated the main sources of high expenditure, however, there is no mention of salaries and allowances. After going further to pages 28-29/45 rounding the figures to the nearest billions for easy balancing, the Revenue budget is approximately ZWL$17 billion, Capital budget is approximately  ZWL$8 billion. Then when I added all proposed expenditures for 2022, I arrived at approximately ZWL$12  billion,” said one resident.

“I checked page 30/45, this then means the difference between ZWL$17 billion and ZWL$12 billion is approximately ZWL$5 billion, which I can then assume is what is reserved for SALARIES and ALLOWANCES which becomes the highest percentage of the REVENUE BUDGET. This is very high indeed about 30 percent of the REVENUE BUDGET.”

A ward 13 resident said the budget was unjustified as the local authority has been charging high rates.

“I don’t think we can speak about the budget or whatsoever because City Council has been charging us high rates since 2019 to this year. We have been paying high rates, worse with Covid-19 situation there is no need to increase rates otherwise we should sit down and talk about the local authority reducing the high rates we have been paying,” the resident said.

He said the suburbs have been experiencing poor service delivery with the Local authority not coming to their rescue.

“In Mabuthweni, for a one room we have been paying ZWL$ 1 045 which is not good, we spend most of the time without water, even the toilet infrastructure is poor, this shows that the City Council is not giving us any assistance in Mabuthweni and in number 1″.

On behalf of the council, Sehlule Ndlovu from the Town Planning and Engineering Services Department said BCC’s tariff charge was informed by input costs to deliver services.

Ndlovu noted BCC meter readers now had the latest technology to take readings from outside one’s property.

“Council is embracing technology and meter readers are now using electronic gadgets that are able to connect to your meter and get a reading from outside your property, so you may not see them,” she said.

However,  residents disputed Ndlovu’s claims, saying this was false as some water meters were old.

“That is not true because old meters have no technology to do that. The best solution is that your meter readers should take meter readings every month or residents do what I always do. I take my own meter readings and give it to the relevant department with the name of the person receiving my record,” said one of the residents.

Some residents also questioned why BCC wanted to spend more money on solar lighting which was costly compared to what was charged by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

“Solar lighting is not as cheap as they think because of heavy-duty batteries required and the safety of solar panels. Use ZESA with low energy lamps to cut ZESA bills. My area has not had street lights for more than 25 years now,” said one of the participants.

“I am not really happy with the way repair works are done such as refurbishing burnt out pump motors can lead to unplanned heavy costs. These high duty pumps need proper protection from ZESA surges to avoid damages which end up costing us the residents a lot of money.”

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