THE Bulawayo City Council is set to shut down a number of its revenue halls in the high-density suburbs after an internal audit recommended that they be leased out as a majority of residents were now using mobile forms of payment to settle their bills.
This comes amid revelations that as at 2018 cash collected at revenue halls in high-density revenue offices amounted to just 14 percent of the total collections while at the main revenue hall it amounted to just two percent of the total collections.
According to a council confidential report the local authority’s internal audit department presented its findings of a performance audit of the city’s revenue collection, investment management and bank reconciliation activities where they noted that cash collections at all its revenue offices has drastically gone down.
If the local authority goes ahead with these plans this could see a number of personnel — especially cashiers — being made redundant and could either be moved to other departments or in the worst case scenario, lose their jobs. According to the report; in 2016 at the main revenue hall cash collections stood at 55 percent, reducing to 11 percent in 2017 and two percent in 2018, with indications that the overall percentage could have further decreased last year.
At high density revenue offices in 2016, cash collection represented 94 percent of the total collection, in 2017 the figure dropped to 46 percent and in 2018 it stood at 14 percent. In the licensing section at the main revenue hall, cash collection represented 87 percent, 2017; 33 percent and 2018; eight percent.
“Given that more customers are preferring to use digital payment methods, the financial services department should re-design its payment systems to offer digital payment services. The digitalised payment services should be flexible, cost-efficient, save customers time and allow customers to transact how, when and where they like.
“The financial services department should consider reducing the number of cashiers at the cashiers and licensing sections in line with the reduction in volumes of cash handled by these sections, they should consider closing and leasing out revenue offices whose cash collections no longer justify their continued operating,” reads part of the report.
The audit further implores that the local authority must encourage its consumers who want to pay in cash to do so via the banking system noting that it was also expensive for them to collect cash revenue.
“Paying for a bill in cash is an expensive payment option for the city — in terms of cash-in transit operations and cashiering staff costs — in comparison with automated or digital payment channels. The latter payment modes are also more convenient and secure for the city’s customers.
“Additionally, handling cash by city personnel has risks of theft, robbery as well as human errors. In customers moving to alternative payment channels there will be financial saving for the city in reduced cash collection costs. Moreover, offering more ways to pay leaves a customer with very little excuses not to pay on time,” reads the report.
Meanwhile, the audit revealed that while investments made by the local authority were subject to detailed internal controls to protect such investments, the local authority had no clear-cut investment policy.
“We observed that investments are subject to detailed internal controls to mitigate the risks associated with the city’s investments. These internal controls have been documents in a procedure manual. In addition, personnel charged with investments are appropriately qualified in their roles to support the investment objectives of the city.
“However, during our audit we found that the financial services department has not developed an investment policy.
“Without such a written policy for these processes it is difficult for the council through the audit committee, to perform its oversight role in investments,” reads the report.