Computerised billing system worth the investment for Zvimba District Council

Welthungerhilfe | Erica_Keogh from Welthungerhilfe Zimbabwe, on 22/06/2017 12:23 EST

Zvimba is one of the seven districts and 3 urban councils which make up Mashonaland West Province in Zimbabwe, and is the second most populous district in Mashonaland West covering 6,275km², with a total population of 245 489, 50% of whom are women. Zvimba’s administrative capital is Murombedzi Growth point which coordinates other smaller urban centres. The District shares a border with Harare Metropolitan Province, and has capitalised on this through the provision of housing, industrial and commercial developments from which people commute to Harare daily.

“The physical planning development this district was going through during the past 10 years was so amazing from the outside. However, physical developments happening in the local authority were outmatching the revenue in-flows”, stated the Zvimba Finance Manager, Mr Chafesuka. Through the use of manual systems, it was a mammoth task for the local authority to know and bill all their clients and stakeholders as their database was in a shambles. Since 2014 the local authority had been operating its accounts on manual platforms, which invited loopholes into the accounting systems, and caused unbearable headaches during reconciliations with other sub-offices.

In 2014, during the CS WASH Fund Welthungerhilfe SELF project Community Support for Service delivery (CSSD) training was rolled out to the community and it was realised that willingness-to-pay for council bills and rates was directly related to lack of feedback to the residents on their queries about their bills. This lack of feedback chiefly emanated from the lack of comprehensiveness in documentation which resulted in failure to locate duplicate receipts when complainants had queries or had lost their receipts.

A lasting solution was implemented through the support of the SELF Project, who engaged the services of the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Center (SIRDC), through its Geo-information and Remote Sensing Institute (GRSI), to set up a Geographic Information System (GIS) for Zvimba local authority, which has enabled them to collect, manage and produce spatial data of the entire district, including the location and distribution of WASH facilities, industries, businesses, residential stands, infrastructure and natural resources. This has proved to be the answer to the “know your clients” approach in doing business.

Realising the problems the local authority was experiencing with its archaic manual system in both planning and revenue collection, the local authority engaged OMNI Africa for accounting training and setting up of network with hardware and GIS support. To date Zvimba has networked its sub-offices with the main head office server and the days of headaches on receipting and reconciliation, are gone with the press of a button.

In his presentation at the Close-out Ceremony for the SELF Project in Harare, Mr Chafesuka emphasised that residents’ confidence has been boosted which has seen the local authority increasing 60% of recipients, compared to 10% before computerisation. He further attested that the benefits of the computerisation including:

  • Sub-offices linked with real-time accounts
  • Embracing plastic money by using point of sale machines and mobile money (Ecocash, Telecash and Onewallet)
  • Confidence of residents boosted
  • The local authority has realised improved annual revenue of USD$4.4m, compared to less than USD$1m prior to 2015
  • Savings of USD$1.2 million were made compared to the previous year.

In a bid to protect the gains from all these developments, Zvimba advanced its budgeting process by embracing the Planix Budgeting software. As well as paying their personnel, the PAYNET system has also lessened the workload on the human resource and administration department personnel. As enshrined in their policy the local authority can now plough back 50% of its revenue back into the community and in 2016 with great joy the planning authority recapitalised to improve service delivery by purchasing equipment and machinery for the district.