An audit by City of Harare released in March revealed massive illegal occupations, subletting, and non-payment of rent at the council owned Trafalgar Court.
Trafalgar Court is a building originally earmarked to accommodate council’s Municipal Police offices, City Parking offices as well as offering cheap accommodation to council employees. However, this is no longer the case as the building now also houses private businesses and some tenants who are not employees of council.
According to minutes of the Audit Committee which sat in March to discuss the outcome of the probe, there are high levels of illegal occupation and non-payment of rent at the council building. In addition, some unscrupulous council employees are sub-letting their allocated apartments.
“Audit findings had established a 24% illegal occupancy rate, high levels of rental arrears, and occupation of flat number 1003 without council authority… The committee discussed the matter at length expressing concern at the high rate of default on lease rentals by council employees and other tenants at Trafalgar Court including illegal occupation and sub-letting of the institutional accommodation,” read the Audit Committee minutes.
It is sad to note that the situation prevailing at Trafalgar Court is not peculiar as Harare has over the years been losing millions of dollars due to non-payment and subletting of council properties. Harare is currently owed more than $30 million in lease arrears.
Nevertheless, council workers who are tenants at Trafalgar Court have said that the arrears were due to non-payment of salaries. One council employee who has been staying at the council flats for the past 10 years said that workers did not have money to pay for their rentals.
“I have been paying all my rentals over the past years, but I can no longer pay regularly as we are not receiving our salaries. How do they (council) expect workers to be up to date with their rentals when our salaries are seven months behind,” said the tenant who refused to be named for fear of reprisal.
Another council worker who also stays at Trafalgar Court concurred with his colleague saying that massive corruption and abuse of resources at the building was being caused by greedy council executives.
“It is common knowledge that some senior council employees are benefiting from the building by sub-letting and renting out the apartments to unauthorised tenants. Executives are responsible for renting out the property to private businesses and I urge council to carry out a comprehensive audit,” said the worker.