Africa’s towns and cities’ growth rate has outpaced the activities of the local authorities regarding management, infrastructure and financing. This has made majority of African towns and cities to face governance crisis.
Accordingly, the capability and capacity of urban local government to provide basic services to a growing population have entered the core of the development debate.
Property tax in Ghana, which is popularly called Property rate, is considered as the annual payment made by property owners to the local government or the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
Properties under considerations are tangible real estate, houses, office buildings and properties that are rented out. The rate ranges from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent of the estimated cost of the property, likewise the classification of the location where the building is situated.
In 1988, Ghana implemented comprehensive reform in its local governance structure and adopted decentralisation as an alternative development strategy. This strategy included political, administrative and fiscal decentralisation and aimed to promote effective and efficient governance at the local level which gave power to the local levels to collect property rate.
A study on ‘Property Rating Potentials and Hurdles: What can be done to Boost Property Rating in Ghana?’ using WA Municipality as a case study, was able to identify that the major constraint to property tax was poor information systems infrastructure, non-execution of the law, political meddling, inadequate budget for routine activities, inadequate staffing and inadequate technical staffing.
Another study conducted at the Offinso Municipality proved that the inability for collectors to reach a wider area as well as inadequate collection modes and poor perception of the citizenry against the collection of property rate have had adverse effect on property rate administration.
Some studies have suggested that government should go into full automation in the collection of property tax in the country. This is to afford authorities the opportunity to be able to fully account for all monies collected.
It will also help to widen the collection base and subsequently increase revenue which will help local authorities to implement projects.
Automating property tax will give the MMDAs the chance to plan well and ensure fair distribution of development infrastructure in their localities.
The automation of property tax will help in identifying the occupants of every household in any locality which has the potential to help with the clamping down of people with questionable behaviour.
Requirement for identification
Some experts have suggested that receipts of property tax be made a requirement for the registration of some identification documents such as passports, SIM CARD, vehicle registration, school fees payment and during application for government scholarship.
The receipt of the property rate will help identify each individual’s household which will help to weed out social deviants from the community.
Indeed, such action can go a long way to help curtail current cybercrime activities as the telecommunication companies will be able to easily identify fraudsters.
Automating property rate and making it a requirement for vehicle registration will help in easy tracking owners of vehicles in the country.
Also, such automation has the potential to help know the number of people living in any locality and which will reduce the task of the population and housing census unit from moving round to count the citizenry.
Another key institution that can benefit from an automation of property tax is the Lands Commission for easy identification of dwellers of unauthorised locations and help streamline land ownership in the country.
The writer is a Lecturer with the Computer Science Department at the Sunyani Technical University