UGANDA, Mbarara | Real Muloodi News | Following a series of civic engagement activities designed to gather property owners’ views in Mbarara City, RippleNami Uganda has today handed over a project report to Mbarara City officials, outlining the citizens’ demands for services in the city.
Present at the hand over ceremony representing the Mayor was Ronald Taremwa, the City Secretary for Finance, Samuel Rwakinanga Tayebwa, the Head of Revenue, and Nelson Muhangi, the acting Town Clerk.
RippleNami Uganda conducted various civic engagement activities that spanned March through June 2022 as part of a campaign titled; “Services and Fair Tax for Property Owners”, with the support of USAID as part of the Domestic Revenue Mobilization for Development (DRM4D) initiative.
The aim of the “Services and Fair Tax for Property Owners” campaign is to improve the state of services in Mbarara City, by educating and advocating for greater tax compliance regarding property rates, while calling for accountability from the City Authority that the revenues generated will contribute to the provision of valued public goods and services.
The civic engagement activities included consultations with 746 stakeholders from 187 villages, to include LC1 Chairmen, youth representatives as well as both male and female elders, surveys of both prominent and randomly selected property owners, a series of focus group discussions, and a major civic engagement meeting designed to solicit feedback on owners’ understanding of property rates, and their perceptions about local service delivery.
Mr Taremwa recognised the wide consultations done at all levels, especially amongst the key stakeholders. He was very happy that grassroot people from the village level including the LC1, and other persons were consulted.
From the survey findings, the consensus of the residents is that while they are committed to fulfilling their property rates obligations, they feel that there isn’t a commensurate provision of social services from the local government. This sentiment stems from a lack of information on how the tax revenues are spent by the local government authorities, as well as a general lack of civic education.
To identify the services that are most important to Mbarara property owners, they were presented a list of services that the local government can provide, and were asked to select the top three.
Consistently among all groups that participated, the top three priority areas were improving Mbarara City’s road network, health services, and water and sanitation, with education following closely in fourth place.
Mr Taremwa reminded the audience that property rates was the biggest single revenue earner for the city, and he requested the city administration, led by the Town Clerk, to improve on linking payment of property rates to service delivery. For example, Mr Taremwa announced the City is going to purchase a grader by end of next month using property rates collections, so that work on roads can begin.
Mr Taremwa also acknowledged that recommendations of the report show the administration has an uphill task. For instance, there is need for the register to be regularly updated with correct data so that the administration of rates is applied fairly and equally.
Mr. Rwakaninga will present the findings to the City Executive Committee at a subsequent ceremony.
Also present at the event was Julie Atuhaire, representing Mbarara City property owners. Ms Atuhaire recognised the fact that as a key stakeholder, she had been consulted and that the report was a true representation of RippleNami’s consultation. However, she lamented the 5% property rates tax that is levied on commercial property owners in Mbarara, as they are also faced with so many other taxes.
The local real estate sector is a priority area for revenue collection to fund public services in the City, with Mbarara City officials having recently concluded a property valuation exercise targeting services to be taxed over the next 5 years.
Mr Muhangi informed the meeting that the draft valuation list is likely to be displayed in September, and will be available for viewing, for 30 days. During that time, property owners will have the opportunity to object if they are unhappy with the value of the property stated, or any other statement made or omitted from the draft valuation list.
By working with Local Government and Political leaders at the sub-national level, with a special focus on the City Executive Committee, RippleNami Uganda is advocating on behalf of property owners that property rates be levied fairly and equally among those that are eligible to pay, and that property owners be included in spending decisions.
Mr Muhangi assured the audience that his office will adopt and implement all the recommendations contained in the report, as long as they are not in conflict with the law.
Market studies have shown that a significant number of Ugandans have low confidence levels in the tax system, which impacts their willingness to comply with their tax obligations. For example, a recent study by International Growth Centre (IGC) highlighted areas of concern voiced by Kampala property owners, which include poor relationship management, poor communication, errors in property valuations, and service delivery issues, all of which negatively affect taxpayers’ willingness to pay. As a result of these issues, less than one in ten billed Kampala property owners paid their taxes on time in the financial year 2019/2020.
About RippleNami Uganda
RippleNami Uganda is a technology company working to deliver innovative solutions to people across Africa to solve critical problems, empower nations, and provide people with real-time information to connect and create positive change.
In addition to Mbarara City, RippleNami Uganda is also conducting the “Services & Fair Tax for Property Owners” initiative in the cities of Hoima, Fort Portal, and Gulu.
RippleNami Uganda is extending the campaign reach digitally to Uganda’s other new cities of Jinja, Mbale, Masaka, Lira, Soroti, and Arua through Real Muloodi News Network.
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