February 14, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
While the Freetown City Council (FCC) has blamed the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) for the delay in printing local tax receipt books, thus undermining revenue collection, a senior official from the ministry has denied the claim, noting that the council was yet to pay a single dime as printing cost for the receipt books.
Public Relations Officer of FCC, Cyril Mattia, had told Concord Times in an exclusive interview that the ‘deliberate delay’ by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) to produce local tax receipts for FCC until the other 18 Local Councils also get theirs, undermines the economic viability of the council.
“It’s unfair to FCC because this is the biggest council in the country. Freetown has half of Sierra Leone’s population residing here. The demand for this city is greater than any of the remaining 18 councils in the country. We have to deal with sanitation, overcrowding, marketeering, among others,” he said.
But Donald Augustus Ngegba, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), told Concord Times that FCC was yet to pay a cent to them for the printing of local tax receipts, adding that only 10 districts – Port Loko, Kambia, Tonkolili, Koinadugu, Bombali, Bo, Pujehun, Moyamba, Kono, and Kenema – have paid for printing of local tax receipts.
Ngegba said he had signed a cheque in the region of three hundred and six million, eight hundred and forty thousand Leones (Le306,840,000) payable to the Government Printing Department for the printing of local tax receipts for the 10 districts.
“MLGRD does not pay to the Government Printing Department (GPD) for the printing of local tax receipts but the councils do. The reason we are asking them to pay to us directly is to ensure that they don’t print in excess. We recently received intelligence that the revenue collectors have their own booklet of local tax receipts,” he said.
“The Government Printing Department has increased the printing cost for one booklet of local tax receipt from twenty thousand Leones (Le20,000) to thirty thousand Leones (Le30,000). The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) does not put in for printing of local tax receipts until the councils or chiefdoms request and pay for the service. We are just there to ensure that there is control over the total number that is printed per year. That’s why they should pay the money to us and we in turn pay to the Government Printing Department,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cyril Mattia, noted that if local tax receipt books were not produced and sold to people on time, the FCC would not generate revenue to deliver services in the municipality.
“It is good to sell local tax to people at the first two months of the year. If the local tax receipts are produced after the first two months of the year, you are disadvantaging the people who should have the receipts for a full fiscal year- from January to December,” he said.
“We have to pay for the waste management of city. Last year alone, we paid over one billion Leones (Le1.2bn) to MASADA Cleaning Company. If we don’t collect revenue, we will not be able to do so.”
He disclosed that the FCC was currently constructing a two-storey market structure at Wilberforce village, adding, “we can complete it as soon as possible, so that we can embark on other projects in other areas of the city. That cannot be achieved if revenue collection of the council is not robustly undertaken.”
He said with support from the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), FCC was constructing a market structure at Calaba Town and Wellington.
He revealed that the municipal council expects to generate about two billion Leones (Le2bn) from local tax collection, adding that each month the council pays close to one billion Leones (Le1bn) as salary to workers in all departments in the council.