The City of Harare has come under fire from residents over its decision to issue summons to residents as part of efforts to recover ZWL$17 billion in unpaid rates.
The authority last week announced on social media that residents who fail to retire their debts within three months of being invited to negotiate payment plans will have their outstanding debts converted to United States dollars at the interbank rate and pay the debts in US$.
Speaking to journalists in Harare, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) said the authority’s billing system remains questionable and compromises the credibility of amounts generated on bills.
“The purportedly owed Zwl$17 billion depicted as debt by City of Harare is premised on chaotic and shambolic billing system and non-provision of services such as refuse collection.
“We reiterate that the integrity of the City of Harare billing system remains questionable thereby compromising the credibility of the figures or amounts generated on Council bills, we therefore dispute the quantum owed. The current billing system in its form is subject to manipulation as we have seen payments made not being deducted or those who are religiously paying their bill are punished by an increase on their debt with the local authority,” CHRA charged
The residents accused the authority of taking advantage of residents’ ignorance to legal matters.
“While the issuance of summons is a lawful way of debt recovery, firstly we are of the view that the local authority intends to prey on the ignorance of residents and ratepayers on the legal processes in order to get default judgements. Issuance of summons does not benefit the local authority but the courts and legal practitioners in terms of revenue, while impoverishing the poor through property attachments,” CHRA said
The residents called on the City of Harare to among other issuance establish a credible and reliable billing system that is online and progressively migrate to electronic distribution of bills and payments made online and should indicate their balance in real time.