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30.04.2019 Regional News

Your property rates are set to rise but can this man deliver the services you want?

Ruby Ofori
News Municipal Chief Executive Nii Noi Adumuah caught between a rock and a hard place
Municipal Chief Executive Nii Noi Adumuah caught between a rock and a hard place

The mild-mannered, soft-spoken Municipal Chief Executive of the Adentan Municipal Assembly (AdMa) Nii Noi Adumuah is caught between a rock and a hard place. He has to levy property taxes from 50,000 homeowners even though like Father Christmas they don’t believe in the municipal authority or its chief executive.

Jubilee House expects Adumuah and other municipal heads of local authorities in Ghana to increase their internally generated funds (IGF) this year. In the case of Adentan, it’s by a whopping 100 %. From the Ghs8 million IGF that was collected last year, they plan to achieve a projected target of Ghs16 million in IGF in 2019.

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Problem is, 88% of property owners in the municipality have never paid property taxes according to the municipal records and most we spoke to have no intention of ever paying because they don’t believe the municipal authorities can deliver on the services they need, and by the way, who is Nii Noi Adumuah?

Mr. Adumuah is also hampered by organizational constraints. Some of his staff are highly capable but many are not. Yet he cannot hire or fire them. That power lies with the civil service administration. Municipal government staff, like staff of most Ghana government agencies, are unmotivated, corrupted and lack the capacity or skillsets to provide the modern services required of them. There are virtually no human resource managerial tools for staff management.

What do homeowners want?

Homeowners want paved roads though few believe they will get that any time soon. Over 75 % of the roads in Adentan are not surfaced. There are 600 km of roadway in the municipality out of which only 144.40 km are surfaced, the rest of the roads totaling 455.60 km are unsurfaced.

It costs Ghs 1,200,000 to pave just one kilometer of road way. Paving all of Adentan’s roads would cost Ghs 546,720,00 ($113 million.) This is way beyond the AdMa administration’s budget.

As was demonstrated at an AdMa town hall meeting in Nmai Djorn in October last year, residents are desperate for, covered gutters, sidewalks, clean waterways, effective management of the growing numbers of squatters on city streets – not to mention recreational facilities like parks and gardens.

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At the meeting in October, one angry elderly man was honest enough to say publicly that he was not going to pay his rates. He later took that back when the soft-spoken Mr. Adumuah tried to appease him.

Only 11 to 12 % of Adentan homeowners pay their property taxes at present. Some homeowners go to great lengths to avoid the rate collectors. Some instruct their guards to lie to the property rate collectors. When the bills are delivered guards are told to say the property does not belong to the person named on the bill.

Despite the challenges, Mr. Adumuah and his team are soldiering on with a strategy that has involved very little mass communication – they’ve set aside Ghc100,000 for a radio station which they hope to make operational this year and they held three public meetings last year. Instead of reaching out to the people, the administration has worked hard to improve the municipality’s internal property tax collecting capacities.

Part of the new smart rate collecting strategy by AdMa is to train and assign 25 personnel from the Nation Builders Corps or NABCO to serve as rate collectors going from house to house. Homeowners can only pay with checks.

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Trasaco is seen as a cash cow by the municipality with around 250 homes all regarded as high-value properties. Adentan Town News sent questionnaire to residents of the Trassaco estate. One of the questions posed was whether residents would be willing to pay higher property rates. Mrs. Adeline Abubakar a board member of the Trasaco resident’s association answered as follows:

“For years now, we have been neglected by the municipality: Extremely bad and dusty access roads flooded roads during rains and blocked filthy gutters. Additional charges are not warranted in any way.”

For the central government, the reason for improving property rate collection is simply to enable the government to fulfill promises made during the elections.

The central government is hobbled in its efforts to invest in education, health, and infrastructure and is trying to cast a wider tax net.

In 2017, according to the head of the Ghana Revenue Authority Mr. Emmanuel Ntim, only 1.2 million Ghanaians paid income tax out of a population of 28 million.

In that year the government raised Ghc14.4 billion from taxes of which 44.7% was spent on salaries.

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Municipal Chief Executive Nii Noi Adumuah caught between a rock and a hard place.

The Ghana government employs an estimated 650,000 people including the staff who run the district and municipal assemblies. After paying the government wage bill and servicing debts very little is left for investment in the things that make life bearable for most people.

Now, for the first time in Ghana, the Adentan municipality and all the other local authorities are about to collect property rates based on the actual ratable value of the properties in their areas of jurisdiction. They are also primed to take homeowners to court to get legal backing to seize their properties if the homeowners refuse to pay their property rates.

According to Samuel Affadu, the head of budget at AdMa, the Land Valuation Board of the Lands Commission conducted a valuation of all the properties in the Adentan municipality in 2018. The Land Valuation Board is the only institution in Ghana that is mandated by law to determine the rateable value of properties in the country.

According to Mr. Affadu up until now the AdMa rates were “ridiculously low” because they applied a flat rate to all properties which was derived from the zone in which the property was located.

Zones are determined by socio-economic status including the availability of utilities, use of property; that is residential, commercial and mixed use.

Under the new regime If, for example, your home is valued at Ghc400,000 you will be charged a rate of 0.3 % of that amount.

“We intend to at least double the rates,” said Affadu. “Some places will go as high as Ghc13,500 per annum,” he said.

The valuation of all properties carried out with the help of drones belonging to the Land Valuation Board means that rates will rise however, the municipality is obliged to publish a notice inviting the public to visit municipal offices to appraise themselves of the new rate and raise any concerns they might have through an assessment committee. If they need to pursue the matter further, it can be taken to the high court. “After 21 days we can print out bills and go for collection,” said Affadu. The notice was published in the Daily Graphic on 9 January and in the Ghanaian Times newspaper on 11 January.

Homeowners who refuse to pay will be taken to court. The municipal authority has the power to apply to the court to grant permission to option the property for sale. “We never did that in the past,” said Affadu. If those sanctions are applied homeowners have little choice other than to pay their rates.

The municipality has made it known through various sources that the increased revenue will be spent on desilting main drains in low lying roads, dredging waterways of which there are 122 in Adentan, developing a landfill site for disposal of waste. Currently waste from Adenta is dumped at in local waterways and drains.

AdMa also plans to build culverts, schools, a police post, clinics, procure medical supplies, build an office complex for zonal councils, desilt drains to avoid flooding, establish a community radio station, plant 1000 trees and buy a grader to shape some roads.

This year they will also seek funding from the EU to start a Tilapia and Catfish project for communities to generate income. Your taxes will also pay for the awards that will be presented to winners at this year’s Farmers’ day.