The Volta Regional Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Hon. James Gunu, has reacted to recent news making rounds that the government, through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, has signed a sole-sourcing contract with a single client to assist all district assemblies nationwide to collect revenue.
According to Mr. Gunu, giving this huge contract to Digital City Solutions Ltd, a relatively new and unknown company with no track-record of their operations in collecting revenue, through a single-sourcing agreement is government’s own way of using the various district assemblies for “money ritual.”
Mr. Gunu’s comment was in reaction to a post made by Mr. Selorm Branttie on government’s new move to bring on board a private company to take charge of the collection of revenue in the various districts across Ghana.
Below is Mr. Selorm Branttie’s post that Mr. Gunu reaces to;
“Last week, our ever humble Finance Minister announced that the finance Ministry was going to focus on revenues from Property Tax collections, targeting some GHC 5 Billion in the process. That is actually welcome news, since one of the areas where progressive tax regimes can actually inure to the development of various districts and municipalities is that of property rates.
Amazing news, one will say, until of course, the two-horned devil, with his regalia of a three-pronged pitchfork and an arrowed tail replete with snidely smiling gremlins and gargoyles come in like gadflies and spoil the party.
- A document and contract signed JUST YESTERDAY indicates that the Ministry of Local Government, Decentralization and Rural Development has signed A SINGLE CLIENT to ASSIST the Districts to collect revenue
- The Service Provider will develop a UNIFIED COMMON PLATFORM for property rate collection, PROVIDE FUNDING for VALUATION OF THE PROPERTIES and UNDERTAKE the collection of PROPERTY RATES for DISTRICTS (emphasis mine).
- The Service Provider HAS DEMONSTRATED that it has the skills, etc etc to conduct this project.
- Digital City Solutions Ltd is the company that has been selected by a single-sourcing agreement to handle this project. Their website is Digitalcitysolutions.net. This website was registered on the 21st June of 2021.
- Their LinkedIn page has only 3 Followers and no content apart from a paragraph that describes them.
- Their website only has boilerplate blurbs and the logos of the Lands Commission, Ministry of Finance and Ghana.gov. There is no record of any of their staff, their service offering, past record, clients dealt with, consultancies, etc. Zilch, Nada, Zero.
- As is typical of the types of deals our governments have come to love signing, very little detail has been exposed to the public, or even lawmakers about the nature of the terms of this contract to the same public that is a client of this company, which mushroomed from nowhere and is to play such a very significant role in our revenue mobilization space.
- Typical of this current dispensation, a horde of very annoyed people will descend on me to try and defend this very foggy arrangement, all in defense of the Finance Minister, but of course, there is outrage fatigue because now its the norm for the government to sell us all out for pittances, so we are just slaves in motion resigned to our fate. So that is normal. This will be a He says she says thing and it will fizzle out as the powers that be win against minions like us who aren’t resourced or funded, and who dont have the luxury of a whole party machinery and overwhelming PR and social media army against them. Thats just the rules of the game.
- But it doesnt end there.
- The whole deal is illegal.
- Section 144 of Act 936, the Local Governance Act 2016, States:
“144. A District Assembly shall be the only authority to levy rates for a district despite any customary law to the contrary.”
By the law therefore, the Minister cannot sign a deal en-masse and thrust all the rating responsibilities for ALL Districts in GHANA to just one company, since he will be acting against the spirit of the law, although Section 100 of the same law indicates that the minister may ISSUE GUIDELINES for the Making and Levying of Rates
- It is very clear that this responsibility IS AT THE CORE OF THE OBJECTIVES OF DECENTRALIZATION.
- The deal signed with the GHANA REVENUE AUTHORITY is therefore in my opinion subject to some restrictions as the GRA is NOT MANDATED to take property rates specifically.
- Section 161 Subsection (2) states:
(2) A District Assembly may, in writing, authorise any suitable
person, to be a rate collector in respect of a specified area of a district.
This means that the GRA has no locus as far as rating is concerned in districts. Infact, any deal by the GRA and any company to take property rates is therefore NULL and VOID. Such rates, according to the law, are to be taken by people appointed by the District Assemblies themselves, and not even the Minister of Local Government.
- The whole of Section 161 outlines the obligations of the Rate Payer, and NEVER IS THE GRA mentioned as a recipient or a facilitator of property rates.
- Section 153 of Act 936 describes which entities and individuals are responsible for rate assessments. They specifically outline the Regional Minister and District Assembly, not the Local Government Minister.
- Sections 161 & 162 state very clearly that ALL RATES ARE TO BE DEPOSITED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF THE DISTRICT ASSEMBLIES. So, even an agent appointed to take these revenues doesn’t have to send it to a centralized account, but to those of the District Assemblies.
- Taxation of property as per the Rate Impost and the rateable value are a matter of policy which of course will have input from several stakeholders. But the way this new contract was designed in secrecy, negotiated in even more secrecy and passed with urgency raises very serious questions.
A. What are the negotiated rates going to these agents called DCS?
B. What is their track record that gave such overwhelming assurance that they should handle the whole nation?
C. When were they established and who are the consortium members?
D. What superior technical system are they offering? What are the details of this, and why is it that the local assembly and district units rather arent gaining any capacity to carry their own assessments and property rolls?
E. Does sole-sourcing this arrangement present the most prudent use of our resources and therefore by extension promote the objectives of decentralization as envisioned in Act 462 and other policies?
F. What about the work by agencies such as the GIZ and others that have spent countless resources building capacity at the local level?
The number of Real Estate and Land Economists that could have offered their services to the various districts in their rating offices could have created a far better property registry with the right details instead of the use of such committees and local assembly positions as extensions of political patronage and reward, therefore offering far better capacity.
Like everything, our politicians have the reverse midas touch and yet are still the biggest blight on any institution set up by law and with noble intentions. These intentions are perverted and violated by voracious partisanship lubricated with greed and a debilitating penchant to loot, plunder as much as they can in the present with thoughts of the future more in a devil-may-care mode.
Dear friends, is this what we bargained for? Or we should just sit down and watch the plunder?
I would have expected our journalists and big media personalities to begin to slice these things surgically, but hey, each to his own.
God bless the rest of Ghana that will be left after the plunder is done.
We can only do so much in this thankless bit to create awareness for the need of sanity and circumspection in the discourse of our governance, but alas, it will be drowned out by the cacophony of extreme partisanship and the need to fill bellies.
Thats all folks!
NB: This is a personal opinion and not the views of any organization I’m affiliated to.”