Debt write-off for public officers who owe gov’t rent money

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The Ministry of Legal Affairs says it has exhausted all efforts to recover sums owed by public officers for government flats they occupied for several years, going as far back as 2010.

As a consequence, and with many of the defaulters now deceased or migrated, the Ministry of Finance has been approached to facilitate a debt write-off as the matter continues to be flagged by successive annual reports of the Auditor General.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Legal Affairs Joylin Nestor-Barrowes told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday that the ministry has already expended considerable funds in pursuit of recovering the outstanding sums which included publishing the names of the defaulters.

The specific inquiry related to the First Federation Building for which over $3 million has been outstanding in rent.

“We were advised by the State Solicitor that further efforts to recover the funds may see us end up paying more than what is owed.

“A request was made to the Ministry of Finance to have the sum written off… these sums were owed since 2010 to 2014,” Nestor-Barrowes noted.

The 2017 AG report noted that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure had a total of forty-two flats available for rental to public officers.

A perusal of the rental file, rental register and other supporting documents revealed that 37 flats were rented and five flats were vacant; of the 37 flats rented, 14 were rent-free.

In addition, it was noted that in December 2017, the sum of $1.4 million remained outstanding by tenants. This includes the sum of $669,000 for 2016 and $775,000 for 2017.

It should be noted that some tenants had rents outstanding since January 2016, contradicting clause two of their rental agreement which states that the tenant agrees to pay to the landlord in advance the monthly rental.

On Monday, the PS said some of these tenants did not have these rental agreements while others did.

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