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$1.6m in rate arrears for Labasa Town Council

January 28, 2020 6:30 am

The Labasa Town Council is owed $1.6 million in rate arrears.

This was revealed during submission to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts which is currently reviewing the Auditor General’s Municipal Councils Report from 2014-2017.

Newly appointed Labasa Town Council CEO Summet Prasad told the Committee the outstanding rates was initially $1.9 million but through their recent awareness, they have managed get some ratepayers to pay up.

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Prasad says most ratepayers think they can get away with not paying, and this is where enforcement needs strengthening.

“Some of the challenges that I have identified in the past few days I have been spend here. One of these is that people are rest assured they can run away from their rates that is why we have outstanding rates. Our enforcement part is one area we need to put across if we intend to build any town to a greater height.”

Labasa and Savusavu Special Administrator Amit Kohli says one of the main challenges they face is ratepayers selling their homes without settling their outstanding rates.

“They go and borrow money from the banks to extend, to renovate – $13,000 to $14,000 without paying $3,000 rates. My suggestion is that, you must have a consent from the Town Council. Basically what this is going to mean is, if I try to pull out $15,000 loan to renovate my house – then that mortgage, given for stamping will require consent of Labasa Town Council. If rate is unpaid, Labasa Town Council can notify the bank and says out of that, can you please clear rate of $3,000 then will give consent. It will solve a lot of problem.”

Kohli says taking ratepayers to court over their outstanding rates can prove too costly and time consuming.

Committee Member Vijendra Prakash says the outstanding rates are too much for a small town and the rate structure needs to be reviewed.

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