Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, James Klutse Avedzi

Members of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are unhappy about the failure of the Lands Commission to collect over ¢1.6 million in ground rent.

According to the 2017 report of the Auditor-General, 483 lessees/assignees owe ground rent totaling ¢1.6 million for the period between December 1975 to December 2015.

The report said lessees at East Legon owed ¢251,344 between 1975 to 2015, while Airport Residential assignees also owed ¢380,851 for the year 1979 to 2015.

Again, assignees at South Legon also owed ¢441,491 for the year 1981 to 2015.

Other areas include East Legon Ambassadorial area with an outstanding debt of ¢212, 608 from 1988 to 2015, and Osu with an amount of ¢369,546 for the year 1987 to 2015.

The Auditor-General stated that their interactions with the Head of the Ground Rent Management Unit of the Commission indicate that the laxity in the collection of the rent was due to the ignorance of the lessees/assignees of their obligation.

During deliberations at the Public Accounts Committee sitting Tuesday, Chairman of the Committee, James Kluste Avedzi who was in shock, questioned why prime areas such as East Legon and Osu owed the Commission.

Responding to the queries, the Executive Secretary at the Lands Commission, Sulemana Mahama told the Committee that his office is facing some difficulties.

He, however, stated that the Commission is currently engaging the services of a consultant to assist them with the collection of the money.

“We have a serious difficulty with collecting ground rents and we have deviced several strategies to try to improve upon that and it is still difficult for us.

“What we have now decided to do is to get paid consultants to try to retrieve as much as we can”, a frustrated Sulemana Mahama told Members of the Public Accounts Committee.

Ranking Member on the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Kofi Okyere-Agyekum urged the Commission to privatize the collection of ground rents to generate the needed resources.

The Auditor-General’s report further cautioned that if the situation is not rectified, the continuous revenue loss will adversely affect the Commission’s financials.

In view of this, the Rent Management Unit was asked to organize education for lessees about their obligations under the law, so they can pay their ground rent.

The unit was also asked to devise strategies to retrieve the outstanding debt of GH¢1.6 million.

Responding to the issue, a Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu Bio who accompanied the officials assured the Committee that the digitisation agenda by the government will enhance the Commission’s work to easily identify debtors to eliminate such practices.