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Friday, 20 January 2012

Parastatal Madness, 16th Edition

We have previously touched on the problems local authorities continue in their effort to recover payments from public (and private) debtors. This has rendered them rendering them virtually broke and ineffective by central government. Lusaka City Council recently revealed that its is owed over K28bn in property land rates by both private and public land owners. The council has completed compiling a list of property owners who have been defaulting in the payment of rates. It its words, it "has been failing to provide social services due to limited resources because many clients have not been paying land rates". It has plans to "prosecute the people who have failed to pay" and will "engage bailiffs to ensure that most of the money owed is paid to the institution". But will this really work against public authority? I am not aware of any case where one public authority has sued another!

But with problems like these, is it any wonder that many local roads are full of potholes or many of our areas lack essential services that would normally be delivered by local authorities? In developed countries, councils owe central government money, in our nation it is the other way round. I remain convinced that the problem is not lack of decentralisation, but lack of effective enforcement of existing debt obligations in our judicial system. The councils have money and probably the capacity to deliver their priorities, but are hindered by a central government that fails to honour legally binding contracts. And of course they are held back by a justice system that fails to ensure judgements against private sector defaulters. 

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