Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
A special report on Harare City Council’s rented properties has unearthed poor management of some of the properties, with some bars that have potential to generate revenue lying idle.
The report shows that 90 percent of lease agreements on residential properties have expired while 90 percent of the initial lease olders were either deceased or non-existent.
Council is being short-changed as initial leaseholders are collecting money from leasing the properties without paying any rent.
The report was tabled before a recent full council meeting by the committee that was chaired by Ward 14 councillor Costa Mande comprising two other councillors and four external personnel.
According to the special report, the rented accommodation database is not computerised, rendering the data invalid and flawed. The data was also not up to date.
“Some leased and rented properties of council were illegally being sublet. The sub-tenants or occupiers held no lease agreements with council.
“The databases at district offices are different from information on the ground. District officers do not have control over lease of properties and were not following up on the same,” read the report.
The special report further showed that infrastructure at markets, public halls, pre-schools, parks and bus termini was found to have collapsed.
“Non-functional water and sanitation infrastructure compromised aesthetics, hygiene and health at leased premises,” it said.
According to the report confirmation of accuracy of account bills proved difficult as the accounting system was not up to date, payments took long to reflect and the non-sending of bills to residents worsened the problem.
It also revealed that there were ownership wrangles at council properties.
“Leasing of rented accommodation and renewal thereof was not systematic, resulting in ownership wrangles and potential corruption. Some leased council properties such as bars, bottle stores and even rented accommodation had been extended without council authority,” read the report.
The special committee recommended that a forensic audit be carried out on all council properties, residential and commercial , with a view to ensure that such properties match records at the deeds office.
It also recommended that council properties, including community halls, libraries, golf courses, sports clubs, swimming pools, parks, pre-schools and stadia be refurbished and ICT be incorporated in running and management thereof.
The other recommendation was that all open-ended lease agreements in respect of rented accommodation be terminated and lease of such properties be on fixed-term basis.
“That all illegal tenants in council’s rented properties be evicted and list thereof be submitted to the legal division for eviction formalities.”
The reports also recommended a review of policy on council’s rented houses and that district officers be actively involved in the administration of council’s rented properties.
The report proposed that data concerning housing be automated to facilitate access from district offices.