Opinion

The eroding relationship between Council and traders

By Charles Lotara

From siphoning thousands of pounds in the name of tax and confiscation of goods from small scale traders failing to pay so-called garbage levy collection, the relation between Juba City Council and the residents is getting increasingly frail.

When it is mandatory that some levies be paid to the authorities formally, the approach which officials have taken in recent days to acquire the levies in question has raised eyebrows.

Recently, the council, through its administration demanded a small scale brewery trader to pay an initial amount of money worth seventy eight thousand three hundred and thirty three South Sudanese Pounds (78,333 SSP) as service fee for fiscal year 2019/2020. This according to the slip is an approved rate as per the Juba City Council By-Laws 2013/2019.

It didn’t go as planned, however. A pay slip extended to Juba Monitor indicates the reduction of the charges to fifty two thousand two hundred and thirty South Sudanese Pounds (52, 230 SSP). What remains baffling is an informal placement of a strikethrough over the initially specified amount with a ballpoint pen. Precisely, it’s unclear which of the two amounts is the right payment to the council.

A demand note dated 3rd October, 2019 and submitted by a female business operator who cannot be named due to fear of repercussion orders the payer to clear the arrears in three days.

The money purportedly covers ‘other violation’, service fee arrears 2018/19, trading license, sanitary license, valid medical cards, unclean environment, storage system, expired goods, general maintenance of the place, sewage system, and mixed goods among other charges.

As if that was not enough, the Council authority further allegedly demanded 22,813 SSP and 4,560 SSP in ground rent and application form fee respectively. This draws a question if an occupant of a rented premise is the ideal person to pay for the so-called ground rent, or the Landlord/Landlady.

This action tallies up with the recent complaints raised by small scale business owners across Juba that authorities forcefully seize their commodities each they were required to pay garbage collection levies and related taxes.

The process has been marred by confiscation of goods and physical confrontations between the council officials and traders, including women and foreign nationals.

However, the quest for levies has seemingly taken another twist as it became evidently clear that officials appear to play hide and seek. A shop attendant told Juba Monitor last week that he lost an unspecified number of chairs to the council officials after failing to pay the required levy.

Cooperation between council authorities, business community and residents is paramount to the development and progress of the City. But this is only achievable if all parties resort to a more civil approach of tackling problems arising.

Additionally, transparency and accountability should be exercised by officials in time of money-related affairs.

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