Property owners owe the country’s four city councils K13 billion in ground rates dating back to 16 years, negatively affecting the councils’ service delivery.
The councils—Lilongwe City Council (LCC), Blantyre City Council (BCC), Mzuzu City Council (MCC) and Zomba City Council (ZCC)—say they have, over the years, employed various techniques to recover the money.
In separate interviews, the councils said the defaulters were affecting their mandates of providing efficient and effective municipal services and overall development projects.
LCC is currently owed about K10 billion in city rates arrears, ZCC just above K1 billion with Mzuzu around K900 000. BCC has, however, managed to trim its arrears from around K2 billion in 2015 to below a billion.
In an interview last week, LCC spokesperson Tamara Chafunya said to recover the arrears, the council engaged two debt collecting firms which have been working tirelessly, reaching out to all debtors.
She said: “The council has for a long time engaged the defaulters through notices and we have also offered a waiver on all outstanding bills. However, many still wish not to comply.”
Currently, LCC just like the other councils has a number of cases in courts which are being handled by the debt collection firms.
LCC has over 45 000 clients out of which about 60 percent have outstanding city rates, some dating back to 2001.
MCC chief executive officer Macloud Kadammanja said the council has sent out summons to defaulters to recover about K880 054.
He said out of its 30 000 clients, about 20 000 have outstanding city rates, some dating back to three years ago.
“Since city rates contribute over 75 percent of council revenue, this means almost all areas of service delivery are affected,” said Kadammanja.
On her part, ZCC spokesperson Mercy Chaluma said the council is currently sealing some properties whose owners have arrears.
She said: “For those with huge outstanding amounts, the council is processing to sell their properties to recoup the money.”
For Zomba, which has about 3 000 defaulters out of its 7 000 clients, some property owners have stayed more than 10 years without settling their city rates.
The most affected services, according to Chaluma, are refuse collection, grading of roads, building and vehicles maintenances and infrastructure development.
“The council is currently processing the selling of some properties because owners were given waivers but they still failed to pay,” she said.
Despite sailing through financial hardships, there are widespread reports of abuse of funds in the country’s city and district councils. n