Bulawayo City Council (BCC) suppliers have raised concerns over the delay in payments for services rendered to the local authority.
The matter was raised during the 2023 budget performance review for the months of January to June this year, held at the large city hall on Thursday.
A representative from the suppliers noted that the council sometimes does not pay for goods and services within the stipulated period of 30 days, which affects them as they operate in a hyperinflationary environment.
According to a presentation by BCC Finance Manager, Isaac Matare, money owed to creditors has grown by 183 percent while that owed by debtors has grown by 188 percent.
“On behalf of the suppliers of the city council, I would like to raise concerns about the payment. In the presentation, they showed the amount that they owe to creditors. It is growing. As a supplier, noticing the inflation rates, we would have a timeframe that we would have agreed to be paid on,” said the representative.
“It could be two weeks or 30 days, but you find the council paying us after 60 days. Even with the high inflation that they pointed out themselves. I would like to find out if the finance department is aware of such and are they doing about it?”
BCC Financial Director, Tennyson Mpunzi, apologized for the delay, citing cash flow challenges and encouraged the suppliers to approach council whenever they feel like their payments have been delayed for too long.
“The growth rate of our creditors, at the close of the budget performance assessment was around 183 percent. The standing policy of council is that suppliers should be paid within 30 days but because of cash flow problems, we find ourselves spilling into the following month without paying,” he said.
“Our wish is to pay within the shortest time possible. We encourage our suppliers to come forth when we face challenges. We acknowledge and appreciate that we have suppliers who help us with life-threatening inputs and we would not want to destroy our relationships. Should you experience such please do come forward and we find ways of dealing with the matter.”
Residents also raised concern over the high rates that are charged by the council, citing that they are beyond the reach of many and as such lead to default.
“Can our council budget be for the people. We have realised that the budgets set by the council are mostly to maintain a competitive market position. We do understand that there is need to make money so that there can be development but as residents, we feel choked by the council rates,” he said.
“The monthly bills are high, parking fees are high, and people can hardly pay their bills on time. We implore the council to have the plight of the people in mind when crafting budgets. We are affected by the same economy that affects you as the council.”
On bills, Mpunzi explained that the council does not have much choice as its budgets are influenced by the economic situation.
“We agree that we face the same challenges. They are the ones that make us charge the rates we charge. We do have certain services and departments that are heavily subsidised, so in such cases, we look at the distribution of our resources,” he said.
“You will find that in departments such as health, we try to avail resources at minimal costs because these are life-threatening issues. So, these are some of the matters that we put into consideration. However, in cases where people cannot genuinely afford, they can come to the council direct and apply for grants that will assist them in terms of accessing some services.”