The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is owed ZWL$477 million by domestic debtors, government departments and industry and commerce, a situation officials said is crippling its operations.

BCC Finance Director, Kimpton Ndimande, confirmed the local authority was facing financial challenges and was also incapacitated when it came to borrowing funds for big projects.

“The total debt owed to the city council is ZWL$477 226 155 of which the domestic debt is ZWL$ 249 023 970. This incapacitates the city because we don’t know when this money will come into our coffers. The problem is we can’t plan for capital expenditure, as we can’t borrow,” Ndimande said in a virtual water crisis meeting held Wednesday.

He added that the budget for water treatment chemicals set aside for 2020 was ZWL$482 046 673.

“The actual expenditure is ZWL$276 148 368 while the 2021 budget is ZWL$1 353 156 970,” said the finance director.

Acting Town Clerk, Sikhangele Zhou added that the volatility of the market and exchange rate also worsened the city council’s financial problems.

“The currency has been volatile and our budget was crafted in 2019 using the exchange rate at that time whose base currency was the ZimDollar. We all know how the finances were then.

“That’s why we need a supplementary budget but the way we do the budget is lengthy and takes time so coupled with non-payment that cripples our operations. We are aware residents have their reasons for this,” she noted.

Zhou added that sometimes bowsers fail to deliver water because of fuel shortage, as the council would have run out of funds.

“For instance let’s look at our fuel budget whose prices have gone up 100 times more yet we are still operating with the previous budget.

“When we fail to deliver water, the fuel budget would have run out, not that there is no fuel in the market but the council will be having no money to buy fuel,” she said.

Of late, the local authority has been struggling to collect refuse in certain parts of the city due to fuel shortages.

Some areas have gone for more than a month with their refuse not being collected forcing residents to raise concerns of possible outbreak of diseases.

BCC senior public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu attributed unavailability of foreign currency to buy fuel as the main challenge.