GOVERNMENT is owed more than K480,000 in unpaid hotel renewal licence fees, says Ministry of Tourism and Arts permanent secretary Stephen Mwansa.
Mr Mwansa revealed this yesterday when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where he said that his ministry was facing challenges in collecting the K480,928 as at 31st December, 2014 from 988 establishments throughout the country because the process was manually done.
He said officers in the ministry conduct field visits to follow up defaulters and request them to normalise their operations but the budget line for revenue collection was very little and a major challenge.
“The collection of hotel licence fees is conducted manually. This means that the tourism enterprise operators visit our offices in Lusaka, Livingstone, Ndola as well as Kasama and physically pay their fees,” he said
However, Mr Mwansa said an application was made to the Treasury and Accountant General’s office for an e-payment platform to be created towards payment of tourism licences.
He said this would enable the ministry to collect licence fees from far-flung areas and reduce the cost of physical visits.
Mr Mwansa revealed that the ministry in 2003 launched the Tourism Development Credit Facility (TDCF) under the poverty reduction programme aimed at providing affordable financing to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
“During 2004 to 2007 we paid out loans totalling K16,295,070 to 119 beneficiaries. As of December 2014 the paid amount had accumulated interest totalling K3,128,932 bringing the total recoverable amount to K19,424,002 out of which K5,213,451 had been recovered, leaving a balance of K14, 210, 551,” he said
But Mafinga Member of Parliament Catherine Namugala queried Mr Mwansa to show the committee some documentary evidence to prove that indeed they had been pursuing the collection of revenue.
She challenged the ministry to name the high profile people who owe such a huge amount of money so as to deter others who may intend to abrogate the law.
In response Mr Mwansa said he would have to verify the records so as to avoid naming and shaming a client by mistake just in case they had made payment before records were reconciled.
The non-compliance of payments was contrary to the Tourism and Hospitality Act no. 23 of 2007.