By Puso Kedidimetse
Francistown — Councillors in Francistown have endorsed the 2019/20 recurrent budget proposals.
However, they raised a concern about the continued decline of the recurrent budget proposals, noting that the state of affairs did not augur well for the efficient running of the city.
Commenting on the budget proposals presented to the special full council meeting recently, Councillor Ben Mpotokwane of Donga noted that while they appreciated the challenges facing the economy, they were worried that the situation had been ongoing for a long time.
He also decried the fact that the council was not doing well in terms of collecting revenue from its clients.
Furthermore, Mr Mpotokwane said it was important to improve supervision so as to extract maximum value from limited resources they had.
Specially elected councillor, Mr Zazambi Tuelo explained that the council could improve its dire revenue shortfall by ensuring that departments led in prudent financial management.
He also urged his fellow councillors to encourage residents to pay service levy in order to improve the financial wellbeing of the council.
In addition, Councillor Gaone Majere noted that the recurrent budget had declined compared to what they had in the last financial year.
"While we are constantly asked to reduce our budget in line with the proposed ceiling from the ministry, the challenges of the city keep skyrocketing every year," he explained.
Councillor Majere also highlighted that as a way of improving revenue collection, there was need to focus on big businesses who were the biggest defaulters compared to small businesses.
He also called for the increased funding for people living with disabilities.
Earlier on, chairperson of the finance committee, Councillor Zibanani Benifield said the tight budget proposals were based on the latest ceiling released by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development which had been reduced by 0.1 per cent.
Ms Benifield proposed a budget of P220 336 280. She said this included P41 880 810 from own sources of revenue and P178 455 471 as Revenue Support Grant from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
She mentioned that the council had to prioritise the maintenance of facilities such as classrooms, staff houses, roads and allied infrastructure. In addition, the chairperson explained that other areas that had been given priority included provisions for vulnerable groups, utility bills and education requirements at primary schools.
"Furthermore, we also had a challenge of incorporating emerging financial requirements despite the reduced ceilings and these included Ipelegeng running costs, transfer values for officers' pension and terminal benefits councilors," she asserted.
Consequently, Councillor Benifield implored councillors to assist the council to improve financial management by being prudent and efficient in budget execution.
Furthermore, she implored them to explore other avenues of expanding revenue sources so as to effectively carry out service delivery. Responding to concerns raised by councillors, Francistown city clerk, Mr Lopang Pule, concurred that there was need to improve payment option plans to encourage residents to pay their rates.
This, he noted, was part of their revenue collection strategy, highlighting that between January and March, they had set themselves a target to collect 75 per cent of the rates.
He also promised that supervision would be intensified to enable efficient utilisation of meager resources. On other issues, the city clerk informed the special full council session that Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) was opening an office in Francistown to facilitate the process of investment attraction to the city.
Source : BOPA