Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 June 2020:
Freetown City Council has announced that all house owners in the capital Freetown, will soon have their properties reassessed – though many suspect it is a re-valuation exercise that may mean some will pay more and others may pay less.
The council says it is doing this so as to streamline and modernise the house rating system, and put a new corruption free payment system in place that will require house owners to pay their council rates directly into the council’s bank account, rather than go to the council office to make payment.
This is what the Mayor of Freetown – Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said in a public notice – “ Freetown City Council distribution of property rate demand notice, effective June 11th 2020” – published yesterday:
“Freetown Transformed will be a great city – and we are all looking forward to this. As Mayor I have dedicated myself and the Freetown City Council to the Transform Freetown agenda but in order for Freetown to be transformed, all Freetonians must play their parts.
“One way for Freetonians to help Transform Freetown is by paying their property rates and business licenses. Freetown City Council has completely reformed its property rates and business licences system so that it is fair for everyone.
“ The new system now includes all of Freetown’s 160,000 property and businesses, including dwelling houses, commercial buildings and government buildings – all properties have been geo-mapped. Using this single uniform assessment system, small and lower value buildings are assessed less while larger and more valuable buildings are fairly assessed more. (Photo: Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr).
“Over the next few weeks, owners will be receiving by hand a detailed Rate Demand Notice that explains the uniform system. Payment is not to made in cash to City Council collectors.
“Payment should only be made through the Banks noted on the Rate Demand Notice. This ensures security and transparency, and better service delivery outcomes for Freetown.
“Understanding the impact that COVID-19 has created for Freetonians, Freetown City Council empathizes with our residents, and has decided to extend the property rate payment due date to 30th September 2020 and to reduce the poundage (penalty) for late payment from 15% to 5%.
“Furthermore, if residents make full payment for their 2020 on or before 31st July 2020, they will receive a 5% credit against their 2021 property rate. For those residents who have already made an advance payment towards your 2020 property rate, you will be required to pay the difference if you underpaid, or if you overpaid, you will receive a credit against your 2021 property rate due.
“Freetown City Council will continue to work to improve the lives of Freetonians and to transform Freetown. Property rate and business licence payments will enable us to make our city clean and green, to invest in essential infrastructure like drainage and markets, to improve the conditions in our municipal schools and provide the much-needed upkeep of our cemeteries.
“We thank you for your support and ask that you continue to play your part as we transform Freetown. A help desk has been set up at Freetown City Council so that residents can ask questions and get better clarification on this new process.
“Please call +232 78 333 000 to book an appointment. Additionally, please call +232-78 333 000 +232 88 333 000; and +232 34 333 000 for telephone enquiries or visit us at www.fcc.gov.sl. Let’s work together to Transform Freetown.”
It remains to be seen whether this new property revaluation and rate payment system will generate the much needed cash required by the council to help address some of the deep economic, social and environmental problems facing the city.
And more importantly, the question is whether this new system will reduce the millions of dollars lost every year, due to high levels of corruption within the council and non-payment of household rates by home owners.
“This change in the way we pay council rate in Freetown is welcomed. If you are in the diaspora and you own a property or in charge of family property, please make sure you contact the city council for the new payment details, so you can now pay directly from abroad without sending the cash to anyone, which very often means that your council rate is not being paid to the council,” a council official told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.