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Water, power cut for rates

Nasik Swami
Monday, February 25, 2013

TOWN and city fathers will submit a proposal to the government for rates to be included in the country's tax system.

This they believe will arrest the recurring problem of defaulting ratepayers which collectively stands to date at over $53million.

When this proposal is approved, it will mean that ratepayers will have no option but to pay their rates on time as taxpayers do with tax.

Suva City Council special administrator Chandu Umaria said the idea was mooted during a meeting of heads of municipal councils at the SCC office last week.

He said people treated the issue of clearing their defaulting rates lightly that left the municipal council with no option but to take drastic measures.

"We have given ratepayers so much time to clear their rates. We have given 100 per cent waiver on interest and yet people are not coming up to make their payments. This shows they are least bothered." Mr Umaria said.

He said despite people not paying their rates, the council provided the necessary services ratepayers needed.

Mr Umaria said through their submission to the government, they would also submit that essential services like water and electricity be suspended from defaulting ratepayers and restored when arrears were settled.

He said they also intended to make submissions for the Land Transport Authority to refrain from renewing vehicle registration of owners who owed rates.

"The council has exhausted all means of informing people to come up and pay their rates. This has now become a concern because the council needs money to operate," Mr Umaria said.

He said for Suva alone, the day time population was over 200,000 while the actual ratepayers was only 12,000.

"The 12,000 ratepayers will have to subsidise for over 200,000 people visiting Suva City. Out of the 12,000, 4000 are defaulters. The demand is high and the rate inflow is less," Mr Umaria said.

Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) chief executive officer Jitoko Tikolevu said at present, there were no provisions in their policy that could facilitate the proposal.

"We do not have provisions and we have to make changes to the current law," Mr Tikolevu said.

Minister for Social Welfare Dr Jiko Luveni said she agreed with the drastic measure as the municipal councils needed money to provide the services.

However, she said water was a basic need and the council should consider providing various payment plans suitable for the ratepayer.

"Their rates would have built up and they are now at a stage that they cannot pay. These people need be given various payment options," Dr Luveni said.

She also highlighted that the municipal councils needed money to maintain their cities and towns.

Mr Umaria said they had hundreds of cases in the Small Claims Tribunal and at the Magistrates Court of people with defaulting payments.

"The High Court has disposed two cases where council has already sold properties to recover costs," he said.

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