The Parliamentary cluster on Transport and Public Infrastructure yesterday took to task officials from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development over rental arrears they owe private firms.
During their presentation to the committee on their 2019/20 budget allocation, the officials pleaded with the committee to help them out on arrears as they owe K13.5 billion to property owners.
The ministry has been allocated K28 billion in the budget where they are expected to get the K13.5 billion from.
The ministry’s Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya said one such property owner they owe is Mpico, which houses many government offices in Lilongwe City Centre and Old Town.
He said: “We have come this far with arrears because usually we are given budget that is below our estimates, this is contributing to the arrears, the arrears are usually coming in because of rentals, as government we have inadequate office space so we resort to renting, almost half of the money we are allocated to is given to rentals.”
Setting the ball rolling, Thyolo North legislator Billie Nayeja wondered why a landlord was in such debts yet they own the space they are renting.
“How did we reach this far? What are the contributing factors that we have so much debt by the ministry which is supposed to own the buildings?” he wondered.
Robert Mwina, cluster co-chairperson, said the situation was surprising as the ministry should have been the one renting out property.
“We are surprised that as a ministry which deals with land, we were supposed to hear from them about constructing houses to rent out to people, but this is not the case.
“We are going to move that Parliament allows them to pay arrears so that they concentrate on constructing new houses to rent them out so that they can generate income,” he said.
Among others, the ministry has planned to do a housing census, continue with boundary re-affirmation and demarcation exercercises with Mozambique and Zambia respectively.
In the last financial year, the ministry registered five achievements thus, building houses for 8000 beneficiaries in the Decent and Affordable Subsidy Housing Programme, paid home mortgage loans to 177 public servants, provided house and office infrastructure to public institutions, developed new land laws and national urban policy.