Local Governments as a tier of government, outside the Statutory Allocation from the Federation Accounts and Grants, derive their revenue internally in form of rates, levies and fines imposed on properties, individuals and businesses in their domains. In Ika land, there is no gainsaying that the Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) drive by the Ika South and Ika North East Local Government Councils is highly inefficient and this poses a cog in the wheel to the smooth running of the local government councils, especially at these times of dwindling allocations from the federal government. It is a known fact that most of these revenues collected from Motor parks, market stalls, tenement rates, building levies, fines etc are misappropriated by revenue officials who most times are not local government council staff, but contractors who are assigned the job based on cronyism or as a reward for support during elections. Also, council Chairmen and these contractors are known to divert funds realized from Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) into their private pockets, rather than the coffers of the Local Government Council.
The use of contractors for revenue collection should not only be discouraged, but should be seen as a calculated ploy to subvert the revenue of the local government councils to private accounts. Moreso, majority of these so-called contractors are people of questionable characters who go about fomenting trouble and terrorizing residents in their inordinate bid to collect levies or rates from businesses or individuals.
The recent altercation between a resident and some members of the Ika South Adhoc Committee on New Building Permit which unfortunately led to his death, lays credence to the unruly and aggressive conduct of these revenue collectors. Even on the presentation of a valid receipt showing due payment of rates or levies to the local government accounts, these contractors insist on the payment of another round of money to them, claiming that they are the only authorized organ of the local government charged with the collection of such monies.
The local government councils in their drive to rev-up their Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) and live up to expectations of providing basic amenities to the community, should as a matter of urgency employ the following recommendations in addressing the issue of inefficiency in revenue collection.
They must first of all discontinue the use of contractors as revenue collectors because most of them are dishonest and therefore, constitute a major problem in the realization of . Council staff should be constituted into committees, whose activities would be audited at intervals to ensure accountability of all revenues collected.
In addition, a proper and efficient tariff model should be adopted to discourage the use of discretion by revenue collectors in determining rates and levies. The local government councils should employ a taskforce who will enforce compliance to the payment of levies and rates by defaulting residents and businesses.
Ultimately, there should be a shift from the analogue or hand to hand method of collection of Internally Generated Revenue(IGR). Instead, a faster and more reliable means of bank payment of all monies should be introduced with the issuance of receipts as evidence of payment to the banks. If however, revenue collection is to be contracted to contractors, payees of any levy should be made to pay directly to the council’s account to avoid embezzlement or misappropriation of such funds.
With the above, it is hoped that gradually, the local government council’s ability to effectively generate funds through Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) will be greatly enhanced and by so doing make ample funds available to be used for the provision of basic amenities like roads, pipe-borne water, markets etc, which in turn will make residents more encouraged and willing to pay taxes and levies to the local government councils.
Besides, any Council Chairman who will think less of himself and more of constituents and implement the above will no doubt win the hearts and minds of his people and if such chairman wants a second term, he will not need to go buying bread, bags of rice biscuits and giving money to be re-elected.