By Joyce Mukucha
HARARE – The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has lamented absence of transparency, fairness and accountability by local authorities when it comes to delivering public services particularly provision of water which as a result heavily impact on women.
Speaking during a virtual Tax, Justice and Gender Responsive Public Services (GRPS) Summit organised by Action Aid Zimbabwe (AAZ), Loreen Mupasiri, Director for CHRA said City of Harare was failing to deliver key services like water highlighting that issues of water crisis are linked to poor resource mobilisation and ineffective policies.
Referring to a Resource Mobilisation, Gender and Service Delivery study conducted by CHRA in 2020 focusing on Harare, Mupasiri said the mismatch between the tax contributors by taxpayers and the quality of service delivery remains the major driver of poor capacity to collect revenue by the Council.
The study focused on assessing the nexus between council resource mobilisation strategies and service delivery, evaluation of the social impact of water services on men and women and identification of opportunities for policy reform and improvements.
“When it comes to legal framework on taxation, Constitution of Zimbabwe Chapter 17 principles includes: transparency and accountability, fairness in sharing the burden of taxation, equitable distribution of national revenue between central government, provincial and local tiers of government.
“Centralization has arguably demonstrated its own challenges in the form of lack of accountability and transparency, limited participation of citizens and absence of feedback platforms for citizens to hold central government to account.
“There is lack of fairness in the billing framework where large corporates actually pay less for water consumption than residents,” Mupasiri said.
She highlighted that there were concerns on over taxation of the poor by local authorities due to failure by the central government to disburse adequate funds to local authorities to deliver services for example the case of ZINARA disbursements.
In the case of Harare, she said, revenues collection has failed to translate to improvements in service delivery mainly due to poor accountability mechanisms in financial expenditure, lack of budget integrity for instance the case of POS machines that were not linked to COH accounts.
She added that, “Challenges of lack of accountability within the council itself has also failed it to account for the expenditure of city Parking funds.
“Harare City Council building rentals are being charged below market rates and the secondary landlords then sub-let and charge exorbitant rentals in USD while they pay in Rtgs to Council. There is also lack of transparent in reporting council debtors.”
Articulating on the gendered impact of water crisis in Harare, Mupasiri said Harare City budgets were not gender sensitive.
“The Council’s Gender Focal person pointed out that departmental heads and Councilors need capacity building on gender responsive budgeting as they have no understanding of the concept.”
She said the study revealed that City of Harare does not have adequate capacity to supply water to Harare Metropolitan Province.
“Council is struggling to purchase water chemicals which has negatively impacted on their capacity to pump adequate water. Current capacity stand at 300ML/Day with some estimates lower than this because of the breakdown of water treatment facilities,” she said.
Due to these challenges , Mupasiri said, women were suffering the most as they try to find ways to access water at the places where water barons and some political party youths dominating community boreholes and selling water to desperate women which lead to increased gender based violence and sextortion at community boreholes.
“Women usually spend upto an average of 3 hours per day at the community boreholes and sometimes more depending on the household needs. We noted that 81 percent of women are responsible for water provision in the household therefore are most affected by water scarcity. We also figured out that 20 percent of the community boreholes were controlled by some youths who are aligned to political parties. These would sell the water especially to women, for $20 RTGs per 20L bucket at the time of study.”
Glenview and Budiriro residents, Mupasiri added, revealed that pregnant women who wanted to deliver would be sometimes be turned away due to water shortages at clinics.
When it comes to school going girls, she said sometimes they miss school when on their menses as schools cannot provide sanitation facilities when there is no water.
CHRA recommended that resource allocation and delivery of services by the local authority should be done in response to the different needs of men and women.
“Specifically gender analyses should inform budget planning and service delivery.”
Local authorities, the association stressed, should conduct GDP analysis of their customers and revise the billing framework accordingly so as to ensure equitable taxation.
Government has been urged to facilitate the development of a legislative framework that provides for the equitable distribution formula for devolution funds.
“Government should facilitate the decentralization of the taxing of key services to local authorities and provincial councils for example road licensing. On the part of Harare City Council, ward retention funds should be disbursed consistently as this will significantly contribute to improvements in service delivery at local level.”
She also highlighted that there was need for Civil Society Organisations to assist in building the capacity of the supply side on GRPS.
CHRA also emphasised that, “The distributive impact of a tax regime should be assessed in terms of how taxes increase or reduce the inequality among different social groups for example men and women.”
Trying to addresses the challenges faced by women and girls when it comes to accessing water, CHRA pointed out that it has partnered with Community Water Alliance and made concerted effort to ensure that water point committees are controlled by women.
In conjunction with Women and Law in Southern Africa Zimbabwe, CHRA also organised trainings for women to take leadership roles at water points as well as participating in conflict resolution and management.
By Joyce Mukucha