Despite a low rent of GH¢150 per annum to be paid to the Lands Commission as ground rent, owners of properties in prime areas, particularly Accra, have failed to abide by the law.
The Lands Commission, in a bid to retrieve the arrears, some dating as far back as 1975 to 2015, has decided to roll out an action plan, including naming and shaming of such owners.
This came to light when the management of the Lands Commission led by Benito Owusu-Bio, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources and Suleiman Mahama, Executive Secretary of the Commission, appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to answer the 2015 Audit Report on their operations by the Auditor-General's Office.
Through the audit, it was revealed that residents in East Legon as far back as 1975 to 2015 were in arrears. Likewise, South Legon (1979-2015), East Legon Ambassadorial Enclave (1988-2015), Osu and Cantonments Estates (1987-2015).
Reacting to how such prime areas with their beautiful edifices, owned by the affluent in society, could not pay GH¢150 per annum as ground rent, Mr Mahama said the revenue collection was faced with numerous challenges.
Ground rent is paid to the Commission for disbursement among legitimate traditional owners of the land. This is paid annually on residential and commercial real estate owners across the country.
The law meant that, one might own a house, even though someone else owns the actual land the house sits on, and that owner of the house must pay rent to the owner of which the Lands Commission has been clothed by law to undertake that task on behalf of government and the traditional authorities.
Mr Mahama said the first challenge was the fact that the rent has been pegged so low that, it did not warrant economic sense to undertake a legal process to retrieve the arrears, unlike utilities like water and electricity which used disconnections as a subtle means of collecting their revenues.
He said there was also the issue of government owing almost 20 per cent of the debt portfolio, since government bungalows which housed government officials were located in those areas.
Mr Mahama said the situation was further worsened by the fact that most of the data captured in the areas were manually done, thus, with the introduction of digital mapping of the areas, the revenue collection could be improved.
Mr Owusu-Bio said the time line for the Reformed agenda of the issues at stake would be rolled out in tandem with the new Land Act after Presidential assent with the support applicable Legislative Instrument from Parliament.
He said the reform agenda, especially to do with maximisation of the revenues from the ground rent, could be kick-started with the review to the rating, and then, thereafter, outsource the contract revenue collection to a private party who would be expected to update the records of all property owners.