Governance Watch Ghana (GWG), a civil society organisation (CSO), has asked government to immediately halt plans of implementing a revised property rate regime to ostensibly increase revenue mobilisation and shore up the economy.
It warned that not only was a single-sourced contract allegedly signed by the Ministry of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development to that effect, illegal, but, the policy could become yet another conduit for the misappropriation and misapplication of public funds if not suspended.
Executive Director, Stephen Kwabena Attuh, gave the caution in a statement issued in Accra yesterday on the back of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s address to the nation, last Sunday, on measures to mitigate the country’s prevailing economic challenges.
According to the President, measures including review of reforms in the energy sector, capping statutory funds, implementation of the exemptions Act and the new property rate regime as well as diversifying the structure of the Ghanaian economy from an import-based one to a value-added exporting one, was in the offing to help strengthen the economy in the medium to long term.
Earlier hinted by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, in his 2022 budget statement to Parliament last year, the new property rate regime would see to the creation of a common platform managed by a service provider to collect charges for which, 30 per cent would be remitted to the local assemblies for developmental projects and 70 per cent, shared among the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Finance Ministry and the said service provider.
However, the GWG in its statement, insisted that the proposed property rate regime was “unlawful and counterproductive in its current form, flies in the face of the Local Government Act and has the potential of depriving our already under-financed and impoverished Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) of funds, if allowed.”
“The mandate of MMDAs to mobilise resources at their level to aid development at the local level strikes at the core of decentralisation. Under the laws of this country, only MMDAs have the mandate to undertake or to engage third parties to on their behalf, to undertake revenue collections in their jurisdictions. Section 161 (2) of Act 936 of the Local Governance Act 2016, is clear about this, stating thus: “a district assembly may, in writing, authorise any suitable person, to be a rate collector in respect of a specified area of a district.”
It added that “section 153 of Act 936 provides clarity on the entities and individuals responsible for rate assessment which specifically are the Regional Minister and District Assembly. No such responsibility is extended to the Minister of Finance or the Ghana Revenue Authority.”
Thus, the organisation maintained that contracting an agent out of the parameters of the law which mandates the district assembly to collect and man such rates was illegal.
“We are of the conviction that the new property rate regime the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government is seeking to introduce is illegal and counterproductive, as it portends grave danger for the finances of local assemblies and local level development.
This is particularly so, given the devastating effects of the undue delay in Common Fund releases and the debilitating effects of the obnoxious capping and realignment programme on the finances of MMDAs and local level development.”
The statement called on parliament not to renege on its oversight responsibility over the Executive on matters of such nature by ensuring strict compliance with the laws of the country.
“We wish to serve notice, and notice is hereby served, that Government must forthwith, cease any further steps towards implementing the said illegal contract awarded, failing which we will be compelled to resist same through every lawful means, including massive street protests,” it signaled.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH