June 29, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Head of Local Tax Department at the Freetown City Council (FCC) has bitterly complained government ministries, departments and agencies for not paying their local tax to the council for the past years, noting that such action has the potential to disrupt council’s activities.
Thomas Patrick Kangoma, in an exclusive interview with Concord Times, said the council has been finding it difficult to collect local tax from government workers in the Ministries of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Marine Resources, Education, among others, adding that the Accountant General’s Department was collecting this money on behalf of council from the salaries of civil servants.
“Last year we wrote letters to government ministries, departments and agencies asking the respective Permanent Secretaries to collect local tax for their workers. It is unfortunate that all of these government institutions have failed to comply,” lamented Mr. Kangoma. “In March this year, we wrote another set of letters to the Ministries of Lands, Fisheries, Political Affairs, Mines, etc., but only the Ministries of Youth and Sports and Education responded to our letters though none of them has paid a dime.”
For the past years there has been growing interest in the potential benefits of decentralization process in the country. It was expected that the process will improve the efficiency of government activities by moving the level of decision-making closer to those most affected by government actions. However many councils across the country, if not all, are still faced with daunting challenges.
These gains in efficiency are expected to be reinforced by improvements in the responsiveness and accountability of government. As decision-making is brought closer to citizens, they are expected to play a more active role in shaping government policy and monitoring implementation. But Kangoma noted that for the past years, FCC has been struggling with residents of the municipality to pay their taxes.
“These challenges of leadership, capacity and legitimacy have been clearly reflected in revenue collection efforts. Section 45(1) of the 2004 Local Government Act stipulates that local councils shall be financed from three sources: own revenue collection, central government grants for devolved functions, and transfers for services delegated by central government ministries,” noted the FCC head of local tax department. “Section 45(4) defines the primary sources of own revenue: local (poll) tax, property rates, licenses, fees and charges, share of mining revenues, interests and dividends, and any other revenue due to the government but assigned to local councils by the minister responsible for finance by statutory instrument.
“Unfortunately there are a lot of expectations from the people but council is not making such revenue. We have put a lot of mechanisms in place and even explained as to how some of these resources are expended, but there are still difficulties. We want to encourage every resident in Freetown to pay their local tax so that council can work on effective service delivery.”