BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has been forced to divert capital funds to finance the revaluation of its properties and purchase of office equipment amid revelations the city fathers sought US$1 million for the unbudgeted expenditure even as the city reels under poor service delivery.
The city’s valuation roll, which was effected on 1 January 2012 expired in December 2021.
Valuation rolls are lists of properties and their owners situated within the boundaries of a given local authority compiled for the purposes of billing and taxation.
The Urban Councils Act [Chapter 29:15] provides for the creation of valuation offices by councils.
A valuation roll has to be updated every 10 years.
However, the period can be extended by a further five years subject to ministerial consent via statutory instrument.
Latest council minutes show that city fathers did not budget for the revaluation of its exercise, and have sought the virement of US$1 million to fund the exercise and meet other needs.
“…this report sought authority to virement funds for payment of various capital budget costs. This was intended to cover payments for the various capital expenditure items including the procurement of the external supplier of the revaluation of the properties in the city, the purchase of a double cab motor vehicle and other technical office equipment and stationery items,” the minutes read in part.
“However, the project was not budgeted for in the 2022 capital budget, hence, the request to virement funds.”
Virement is the process of transferring funds from one financial account to another.
However, council’s plans to transfer capital funds to fund unbudgeted expenditure have in the past attracted widespread criticism.
In 2021, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (BPRA) blocked a virement proposal by city fathers to doll out $25 million to construct a new house for the mayor in Selborne Park.
The proposal was met with mixed feelings from various stakeholders in the city, with residents urging the local authority to put more attention on improving service delivery.
“The strategy was to outsource the revaluation of the Central Business District (CBD) by hiring a company(s) to do the revaluation of the CBD properties. The reason being that generally there had not been so many changes or new developments within the city of Bulawayo jurisdiction from 2011 to date,” the minutes added.
“The other was to use in-house resources for the industrial, residential and portion of commercial properties outside the CBD [central business district] as had been observed, there had not been many additions or new developments within the City of Bulawayo boundaries, save for new residential developments which had been captured in the system already.”
Under section 237 of the Act, a valuation officer must be appointed to carry out duties such as valuation of all council and private properties for rating purposes, insurance, acquisition, sale and taxation, among others.
Auditor-General Midlred Chiri in her financial reports has exposed how local authorities were losing millions of dollars in potential revenue as they were not billing a number of properties due to a lack of valuation rolls or lack of title deeds to their properties.
Under the Urban Councils Act, all properties are rateable unless an application is made and approved by council.