One of the major challenges facing Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies(MMDAs) over the years has been revenue generation particularly, Internally Generated Funds (IGF).
Such a measure, if effectively carried out, will ultimately enable the MMDAS to detach themselves from depending solely on the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) provided by the government which has over the years been fraught with delays, thereby making it virtually impossible for the MMDAs to carry out their respective planned development projects on schedule.
Last Wednesday, the Daily Graphic published a story where the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance, Mr Charles Adu Boahen announced a 20 per cent cut
in expenditure budget to ministries, departments and agencies this year, starting from the first quarter to ensure fiscal consolidation by the government. This development, therefore, makes it imperative for MMDAs to also start thinking outside the box to generate enough revenue particularly, IGF in order not to stagnate development in the communities.
Already, the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled many public and private entities to adopt various strategies to enhance their work, particularly leveraging on Information Communication and Technology (ICT) to facilitate smooth administration, increase productivity and revenue among others in the various entities.
It was, therefore, not surprising that at one of the panel discussions at the 73rd Annual New Year School and Conference held at the University of Ghana, Legon, the Head of Local Government Service, Dr Nana Ato Arthur, impressed upon MMDAs to embrace and invest in government’s digitalisation agenda to enable rural communities reap its benefits thereby, accelerating development in those areas.
That is because he noted that evidence showed that the benefits of digitalisation far outweigh its disadvantages and it will go a long way to help sustain the development of communities in the COVID-19 era.
Additionally, the digitalisation agenda will also make cities,rural communities and human settlements more inclusive,safe and sustainable in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 11 by 2030.
Dr Arthur, who delivered a paper on the topic “National and local government leading the way to sustainable communities in the era of COVID-19 pandemic”, equally gave the assurance that the LGS was ready to assist MMDAs to implement digitalisation to accelerate development in the communities.
“I posit that for national and local government leading the way to sustainable communities in the era of COVID-19 pandemic,a major strategy for future intervention is for MMDAs to embrace the national government's digitalisation agenda," Dr Arthur intimated.
What are some of the benefits of digitalisation and ICT to revenue mobilisation?
Digitalisation has undoubtedly impacted positively on mobilisation of IGF for MMDAs.
For one thing, globally, no economy can develop to its full potential currently without globalisation and digitalisation.
The LGS boss, therefore, observed that in the decentralisation arena, there were three main areas of digitalisation. They are digitalisation of records at the decentralised level, digitalisation of IGF processes at the MMDAs and innovations of the MMDAs by way of virtual meetings and conferences in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said IGF mobilisation had improved because of the ease with which bills were distributed and collected, the availability of data and information, as well as elimination of common challenges associated with traditional methods of collecting revenue.
“The automation processes for the collection,utilisation and reporting of IGF at the MMDAs have contributed to reduce drastically the challenges associated with the traditional methods using Point of Sales devices linked to a server," Dr Arthur further noted.
He said for instance that in the case of Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly where actual IGF before digitalisation was a little above GH¢5 million, this rose to GH¢7 million in 2021, translating to 40 per cent improvement in IGF.
“The interesting bit is the growth in IGF in 2021 over 2020-the year of the incidence of COVID-19,”the LGS head further pointed out.
Furthermore, the electronic distribution of bills aided by the property addressing system and the use of text message alerts for collection and depositing of funds by revenue collectors have all helped to make revenue mobilisation in some assemblies less cumbersome.
In the case of the Adentan Municipal Assembly, it has relied on electronic records keeping which had improved its building permit acquisition for clients among other improved service delivery due to the use of ICT.
“In compliance with the provision of section 47 of the land use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016(Act 925), each district assembly is required to set up a permanent physical data room which would be accessible to the public during working hours,” Dr Arthur noted.
He mentioned some of the challenges of the traditional approach of mobilising revenue. They include missing general counterfoil receipt books, under-carboning,ineligible hand writing, time lag, non-accounting of collected funds and limited information on rate defaulters.
Other challenges include poor quality services, missing and misfiled records, shortage of storage space, delays,loss of revenue, lack of up-to-date data and information for planning and management.
The other panel members were Dr Mrs Abena Asomaning Antwi, the Managing Director of the African Environmental Sanitation Consult and Mr Osei Bonsu Amoah, a Deputy Minister of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development.
Dr Mrs Antwi, on her part, stated that COVID-19 brought in its wake structural inequalities resulting in uneven distribution of resources and opportunities.
According to Dr Mrs Antwi, although there were various interventions by the government and other stakeholders to reduce the impact of the pandemic on people, these interventions were not well coordinated to make the desired impact.
She, therefore, called for partnerships in carrying out future interventions to effectively address the occurrences of epidemics and pandemics and their negative impact on the people.
Mr Amoah took the audience through the interventions of the government between March 2020 when the country started experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and January 2022, saying the interventions had to a large extent impacted positively on the lives of the people.
He mentioned the introduction of stimulus packages,modernisation of agriculture,public health emergency services,the implementation of the Agenda 111 policy to increase the availability of health facilities in the country among others as some of the measures the government put in place to help reduce the impact of the pandemic on the citizenry.
He further observed that at the local government level,inter sectoral collaboration was deepened, stressing that the local government sector complemented the efforts of the central government to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in rural communities.