In a bid to improve revenue generation and service delivery, Freetown City Council (FCC) has identified some quick wins. These include recovering some of the Le35bn in property rate arrears owed to the council by targeting large debtors, improving the local tax compliance rate and increasing paid-for parking in the Central Business District.
Compared to other African cities, the revenue that FCC generates per capita is very low. For example, Lagos generates about $45 per capita, compared to Freetown’s $1.2 per capita.
Around 90% of FCC’s own-source revenues are generated from property rates, license fees, local tax, market dues and lease rent. Of them all local tax has the lowest compliance rate - despite over Le 2.5bn potential revenue.
Straightforward measures to quickly improve revenue mobilisation include:
COLLECTING PROPERTY RATE ARREARS FROM LARGE DEBTORS
Total property rate arrears amount to almost Le 35bn. FCC has digitised its existing arrears database and is in the process of writing to the largest commercial debtors. Properties that do not comply will receive visits from FCC management and, after a grace period, will be published online and in newspapers.
CONDUCTING WARD-BY-WARD COLLECTION DRIVES
Amongst other strategies, teams of FCC staff and Metropolitan Police are currently on the streets, conducting ward-by-ward collection drives for local tax, license fees, property rates and billboard fees.
PARTNERSHIPS WITH OTHER INSTITUTIONS
Partnerships with other institutions will support the payment of taxes. FCC is working with large employers to deduct local tax at source, telecoms providers to enable local tax payment using mobile money, and Statistics Sierra Leone for data on households and businesses across the city.
EXPANDING CORPORATE PARKING IN THE CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT
Section 57(b) of the Local Government Act 2004 stipulates that local councils shall charge fees for car parks. FCC Street Parking Unit currently sells parking bays to businesses located in the CBD for an annual subscription fee of Le 2.1mn per year.
The Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr says: “Finances impact heavily on the council’s ability to deliver service to the people of Freetown. While we work on medium and longer term strategies to increase our capacity to generate more money, these quick wins could generate Le1-2bn from arrears, plus up to 1bn from local tax and an additional 1bn from parking.
“It can be hard for people to feel motivated to pay their rates and taxes, when they do not see service delivery improve. Nevertheless, we need Freetown’s residents to realise how important it is that they support this strand of our transformation strategy, if we are to achieve any sustainable change.”