From Francis Owusu-Ansah/Sara Amankwaa, Nkoranza .
Ghana, like other developing countries, is having difficulty raising the much-needed revenue through the tax/fee system.
In spite of all the efforts made to break free from “deficit financing” of budgetary programmes year-on-year, deep-seated challenges, including corruption, lack of transparency, accountability, transfer pricing, tax avoidance/evasion and lack of citizens’ participation, keep stifling all actions.
The World Bank (1994) defines participation as a process through which stakeholders’ influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions, as well as resources which affect them.
Per regulations, all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, as mandated by the Local Government Act 2016, Act 936, shall enable residents and other stakeholders in the District to participate effectively in the activities of the District Assembly.
But, what is happening in the Nkoranza South Municipality – there is a total absence of consultation with small scale businesses, when deciding fees to be paid by all businesses in the Nkoranza Municipality.
FEE FIXING RESOLUTION
Fee fixing resolution is a local authority function, vested by the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act 462), as amended, and each District, Municipal or Metropolitan Assembly reserves the right to exercise its own Fee Fixing Resolution rates for collection and payment into its own local account.
These rates are sundry levies such as for building permits, abattoirs, liquor, beer and beverages, beer bars, drinking spots, pito houses, akpeteshie distillers, cigarette distributors/sellers, private educational institutions, and day care centres.
Burial fees, travel agents, artisans, petroleum/gas installations such as surface tank operators or established filling stations, as well as permits for sanitation service providers, hospitality service providers, psychic traditional healers and herbalists, consultants and contractors, are all inclusive.
The importance of fair taxation through fee fixing came into sharp focus in Ghana from the year 2000, when the need for strengthening the tax system and administration were recognised in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) 2000.
More so, an Annual Progress Report of March 2004 (National Planning Commission) re-emphasised in the 2006 Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRSII).
Fee fixing resolution cannot be excluded in the sub-district structures of the District Assembly
Section 41 of the Act 936 states that District level stakeholders may participate in the deliberative function of the District Assembly, by the publication of a draft bye-law or fee-fixing resolution in a media of mass communication in the district.
That, according to the Act, includes radio, print media, notice boards on the premises of the District Assembly, and in the major towns and settlements in the district, before the commencement of proceedings on the draft bye-law or fee-fixing resolution.
Despite provisions in the Act 936, which guide the operation of MMDCEs in Ghana, many Small, Medium Enterprises do not participate in the process of fee-fixing in the Nkoranza Municipality of the Brong-Ahafo Region.
This situation, which is contrary to the requirements of the Local Government Act 2016, Act 936, of involving stakeholders in the operations of the Assembly, is affecting Internally Generated Funds (IGF) being raised by the Assembly.
The common challenge in the fee collection processes in the Municipality is the neglect of the businesses in the fee-fixing process.
This breeds misconceptions, evasions and default in payments of such fees, according to a research conducted by the Center of Posterity Interest Organisation (COPIO), a Techiman-based non-governmental organisation (NGO).
Other challenges found are inadequacy of logistics, inadequate field staff, and lack of public education on fee fixation and fee collection.
The challenges in fee collection processes were found to be hampering the successful operations of businesses, hence affecting living standards in the Municipality. Thus, involving small scale businesses will ensure transparency and accountability, and compliance in fee payments.
The total absence of consultations in the fee-fixing resolution has pushed the Nkoranza Conservative Hairdressers Associations (CHA) to implement a project on “improving fee fixing regime/decision for enhanced business development in the Nkoranza Municipality.”
The Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund is funding the advocacy project, aimed at pushing the Municipal Assembly to actively engage business entrepreneurs in its fee-fixing resolutions.
According to Madam Martha Fosuaa, Chairperson of the Nkoranza CHA, because the authorities at the Municipal Assembly failed to engage small scale businesses in the deliberations during fee-fixing, businesses also failed to pay the fees.
Because of that, small scale businesses always complain of high rates, unclear categorisation and poor information about the basis of increases in rates and fees. This situation is causing an unpalatable relationship between assembly’s revenue collectors and small scale businesses in the Municipality.
She commended BUSAC and its partners – DANIDA, EU and USAID – for the funding, saying the project was making significant impact, as the city authorities had started engaging the businesses in decision-making processes.
Dr John Apkarep, a Researcher and Consultant of the BUSAC, said the project was aimed at helping to identify and address bottlenecks affecting the economic activities of the CHA in small scale businesses in the Nkoranza Municipality.
The project would regularly engage authorities at the assembly, hold radio show discussions, and stakeholder sensitisations to achieve the desirable results.
Mr. Kwame Adu Gyamfi, Presiding Member of the Nkoranza Municipal Assembly, said the assembly was losing revenue, because many of the business and tax payers were not paying.
He admitted that the project was a laudable one, because, since its implementation started in the Municipality, the tax payers’ attitude had changed, as many, who were reluctant to pay, could now walk to the Assembly and pay their taxes, rates and fees.
Mr Gyamfi expressed appreciation to the CHA and BUSAC for the project, which, he added, was making a significant impact on the assembly’s IGF mobilisation.
To improve on the revenue mobilisation of the IGF of the Nkoranza Municipal Assembly, it must endeavour to work according to the mandate stated in the Local Government Act 936, with regards to public participation in its activities, thereby involving the hairdressers and barbers in the Municipality in the fee-fixing processes of the Assembly.
The Assembly should endeavour to employ adequate field staff and provide them with enough logistics to smoothen fee collection in the Municipality.
Moreover, intensification of public education on fee fixing and fee collection is recommended for enhanced revenue generation in the Municipality, and to minimise clashes between fee collectors and fee payers.
The Assembly should exhibit a good level of transparency and accountability in the administration of funds it collects, to motivate fee payers to continue to pay, whilst tax payers should understand and regard fee fixing, collection, and payment, as a collective responsibility towards the growth of the Assembly.
By, so doing, the Municipal Assembly would be able to improve on its IGF mobilisation, and generate the required revenue for community development.