THE Maseru City Council (MCC) is cracking the whip on residents who are defaulting on paying municipal service fees.
According to MCC Public Relations Officer Lintle Bless, withdrawal of services and legal action were among the measures the council would take on defaulters.
She said most residents had been flouting the Valuation and Rating Act of 1980 which obligates residential and commercial property occupants to pay municipal service fees to ensure the delivery of various services from the council.
Ms Bless said commercial and residential property occupants were supposed to pay M170 monthly, while those with community contracting arrangements for the collection of garbage would pay M100. MCC bills the property occupants on a quarterly bills.
She said MCC had launched a campaign to raise awareness on the need to comply with the law, adding that the move was meant to generate income so the council could fulfill its mandate.
Among MCC’s responsibilities is the collection and disposal of refuse, construction of minor roads and sidewalks, management of parks and gardens, management of streets and public places, burial grounds, issuing building permits and site allocations.
“We have embarked on a campaign to remind residents of Maseru urban to comply with the Valuation and Rating Act of 1980, which states among others, that once a person has developed a site within the jurisdiction of the Maseru City Council, the property has to be valued in order to determine the amount of municipal service fee payable to the council every year,” Ms Bless said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
She said anybody who developed a site in Maseru after 1980 is affected by the law, noting however that there was very low compliance rate.
“We have realised that it is not everybody who is complying with this law, and it is currently a small percentage of people who are complying, hence the need to remind residents,” said Ms Bless.
“We are finding ourselves having to use funds collected from compliant communities to deliver services to those who are not compliant and this is not sustainable as the money is no longer enough.”
The original blanket formula for computing the annual municipal service fee was 0.025 percent of the total cost of obtaining the site plus the cost of developing it.
However, she said the formula had been revised downwards to cater for differences in the economic statuses of households.
“This has been reduced based on the surface area of the smallest possible site which then gave us M170 per month for the service fees,” Ms Bless said.
“However, for communities which have mobilised their own contracting services for garbage collection, the figure goes down to M100 per month.”
She said the council would identify and exempt vulnerable and underprivileged people from paying.
“We work with community leadership structures to identify people who may not be in a position to afford paying the fees,” said Ms Bless.
“These may include unemployed people, people with physical disabilities or child-headed households.”
Residential flats, she said, would also be affected as the M170 would be shared among the tenants.
“If, for instance, the residential flats have five rooms for renting, each tenant would be expected to pay M34 per month as contribution towards the municipal service fee,” Ms Bless said.
Meanwhile, independent business consultant Robert Likhang from RL Consultants, said the timing of the enforcement of the law was not right considering the high levels of unemployment in the country.
“While (the enforcement of the law) is a good move by the MCC, I think the timing is not right because we are in a period when the global economy is on a downward spiral, which may mean not many people will be able to afford the rate,” Mr Likhang said.
For its part, the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said enforcing the law would have a negative impact on businesses since it is an added expense.
“Our position as LCCI is that we are not against the enforcement of the law on the payment of municipal service fees,” said LCCI General-Secretary Fako Hakane.
“But we are aware this is going to have a negative impact on businesses. So the business community needs to be sensitised on this issue in order to prepare for it in advance.”