LOCAL Government and Rural Development Minister Gary Nkombo says the Lusaka City Council owes over K1 billion in statutory debt as at 31st July 2021.

Speaking during the installation ceremony for the new Mayor of Lusaka, Chilando Chitangala, Nkombo said the amount which was owed by the council was choking its ability to provide the much needed services.

“Your worship, I am also aware that as 31st of July 2021, this is now a big one and maybe the councillors who have just been elected may not be aware of what I am about to say is that your council is owing over K1 billion in statutory debt, to the retirees and other institutions. This debt is truly choking the ability of the council to provide the much-needed services to the people such as the management of solid waste. The cleaning of drainages as we approach the rainy season to ensure that we keep as far as possible the epidemics that are bound to break. So with this incumbrance of K1 billon plus debt that the council owes, you have to find innovative ways to capture some revenue in order for you to have space to provide these services,” Nkombo said.

“Among those initiatives, I was talking to the town clerk and if you have been following the most recent events of a few days ago, we have done what you intend to do in the next few days. We have toured the markets, we have been to the bus stops and we have also seen a lot of commercial industrial properties that need to be captured under the titling program so that they qualify to be paying the ground rates. Just that alone you should do your homework correctly by ensuring that you capture all the infrastructure that is sitting.”

He urged the council to apply negotiation tactics in ensuring stakeholders paid levies.

“Your worship, while you do your part, as a government we will continue to adequately support you as well as play an oversight role that as you are working in the council, you sustain your operations. I agree that there should be no negotiations of levies because it is embedded in the law. However, I think that considering the state of our country, meaning the state of our people and everyone is struggling to make their ends meet, there must be room for negotiating at that level,” he said.

“I am not at this stage saying that there is a negotiating room for whether to pay or not to pay, I am saying if somebody comes and applies for permission for instance, it is within the law that the council can sit and consider that application. If for instance you are charging a K100 000 for Findeco House, then the owners of Findeco ask ‘can you come and give us a 20 percent remission’, it is within the law you should be able to negotiate. If you manage to negotiate these rates downwards it goes without saying that people may even come voluntarily to start paying, then you will have a much broader revenue collection base.”

Nkombo said Chitangala would not be patronised despite her political affiliation to the PF.

“As a Council, we need to collaborate and consult the central government in achieving sustainable development for all. My appeal at this juncture is to say that you coming from the opposition political party, we will engage with your leadership to give you that breathing space to interact with us. No one will patronise you. In this particular case you have an obligation, you have a duty to cooperate with the government of the day,” said Nkombo.