F/Town council owed millions in outstanding rates

Town Clerk urges residents to pay up

Francistown council has engaged a robust strategy in a bid to collect its outstanding credits, which include almost P94 million in rates and a further P13 million for service levies.

Speaking to Voice Money recently, Town Clerk, Lopang Pule revealed the arrears amount to P106 942 000 and have been steadily accumulating for a number of years.

He noted this was one of the main reasons council has struggled to finance projects and maintain infrastructure around the city.

“The council is owed by both business entities and individuals. We have categorised our bill: we have habitual defaulters and those who are totally refusing to pay their rates or service levies,” revealed Pule, adding that since the last quarter of 2018 council has embarked on a door-to-door campaign, dropping letters of reminder to its debtors.

“We have engaged temporary staff to do that. Another strategy is we are sending bulk text messages to those plot owners whose contacts we have, requesting they come forward and pay their dues,” continued Pule, who warned council will be forced to take the legal route against defaulters that are not forthcoming.

“Very soon through our attorneys we will be issuing letters of demand, to those who are refusing to pay their rates. For the habitual defaulters, we are going to flight their names and the amounts they owe in local newspapers,” said the Town Clerk, who revealed the council intends to call at least 40 defaulters a week.

According to Pule, most of the indebted property owners are absent landlords.

He further explained that the council uses the monies to balance its support grant from central government, which stands at P178 455 471 for the 2019/20 financial year.

The local authority is expected to raise P41 880 810 from its own revenue sources – rates and service levies.

“Council establishments finance their recurrent budget in two folds, being the support grant and rates. These two are both budgeted for. So if we fail to collect revenue, council operates at a deficit. Eventually, we will be in the Red if we operate at a deficit for a protracted period.

“Thus we need these levies and rates to balance our budget!”

Meanwhile, Pule stressed the need for council to implement a rigorous public education campaign to raise awareness on exactly what rates and levies are for.

“I believe most people are not aware. They do not know why council needs this money from them. But this is the finance which as a local authority we use to develop their areas, provide primary infrastructure such as internal roads provision and their maintenance,” said Pule, adding the council also caters for the orphans and destitutes in the city.