Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 November 2018:
“Collecting local tax more efficiently means having more resources with which to deliver better services to the residents of Freetown,” says Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown.
Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said that the Freetown City Council (FCC) will continue to serve its residents by providing solutions to challenges to achieve improvements in the eleven priority sectors outlined in the Transform Freetown Framework document.
These priority sectors for development include, environmental management, urban planning and housing, education, skills development, job creation with a tourism focus and sanitation.
However, in order to deliver much needed services to the residents of Freetown, FCC needs to increase its revenue generation and collection, she said.
In just four months – July to October 2018, a total of Le135 million was collected in local taxes, compared to Le43 million collected for the whole of 2017.
Mayor Aki-Sawyerr was speaking at the launch of Sierra Leone’s first phone-based tax collection system in Freetown last Friday, 26th October 2018. This new payment system will help the council collect more taxes.
The new payment system will enable residents in Freetown to pay their local tax of Le5,000 (Less than half of One British Pound), using an app called Africell Money, provided by the mobile phone company – Africell.
The local tax mobile money service for Orange mobile phone customers will be launched this November.
With just five easy steps which begin with dialling the Africell Money short code (*161#) and ends with receiving a confirmation text message, Freetown’s residents can now fulfil their statutory obligation to pay local tax using their mobile phones or an Africell mobile money agent, says Freetown City Council.
The local tax mobile money service is also accessible to visitors to Freetown and Freetonians in the diaspora, who can now directly support FCC’s efforts to Transform Freetown, by making donations in the form of voluntary payment of the local tax.
Mr Ibrahim Bureh of the Local Government Finance Department, Ministry of Finance, spoke about the potential for this new local tax mobile payment system to be adopted by other councils across the country.
There is no doubt that the successful flood mitigation work carried out by the Freetown City Council and its partners between June and September this year to avert flooding disaster, and the government’s monthly Saturday Cleaning Programme, have inspired an increase in payment of local taxes, as residents can now see where and how their taxes are being spent.
The Transform Freetown Framework has set key priority and targets, including the introduction of a Cleanest Zone in Freetown Competition; the reduction of maternal mortality by 10% in Freetown by 2022; and a 50% increase in vegetation cover in Freetown by 2022.
All Freetonians and friends of Freetown are being encouraged by the council to pay their local taxes as the council mobilises much needed resources to create a brighter future for the city, and to transform it to a city that is fit for living, work, and leisure.
Commenting on the Mayor’s efforts to collect more taxes for the council, a political analyst in Freetown said: “It’s amazing what a change of government can achieve”.
Although the Mayor is not a member of the ruling SLPP, her determination not to conflate party politics with the role of a Mayor of the capital city, has created a refreshing atmosphere of partnership with the central government, that must be respected by government departments, if the goal of transforming Freetown is to be achieved.