Jangjangbureh Area Council holds interface with Taxpayers

Friday, May 26, 2017

The first ever interface meeting between partners of ActionAid and Jangjangbureh Area Council has ended with a series of recommendations aimed at making positive reforms to the council. The meeting, held in Kudang in the Central River Region on Thursday 18th May, brought together ActionAid partners, staff of Jangjangbureh Area council, the chiefs of Niamina East, Niamina West and Niamina Dankunku districts, ward councilors, alkalolu, religious and traditional leaders, women and youth leaders, VDC chairpersons and a cross section of community members from the Central River Region and other areas of the country.

 The interface, which was very lively and interactive, recommended greater people participation which should also include ward councilors and Village Development Committees in the planning process and implementation of development activities, the development of a strategic plan for the council, restructuring or downsizing the staff on payroll for quality service delivery, at least 30% of the total revenue collected to be given back to the districts for their own development initiatives. Other key recommendations are capacity building and awareness creation at community level especially for ward councilors on issues surrounding council’s operations and for the council to engage government to negotiate other sources of revenue outlets.

Jangjangbureh Area Council has been faced with a lot of challenges of revenue generation and utilization. The annual projected revenue for council is 2 million dalasi, yet it collects only 40% of that amount. The council’s expenditure far exceeds what it generates, is overstaffed with staff not been paid salaries for the past 2 months. The non-participation of people in how council’s revenue is utilized has led to some taxpayers refusing to pay tax because they claim they do not know how their money is spent.

At the interface meeting, the Governor of CRR Sulayman Barry commended ActionAid for organizing what he called a very important meeting as it facilitates a healthy exchange of ideas between Council and the communities. “There is a need for people to know where their money is being spent and the Area Council should tell them”, he said. The Governor also called for greater people participation in how their money is being utilized.

The Executive Director of ActionAid The Gambia through the Programme Specialist for Women’s Rights Fanta Jatta Sowe re-emphasized the importance of the meeting to the tax payers who have a right to know how tax paid is utilized. Part of the accountability process is to strengthen good governance and Fanta highlighted the Gambia’s new democracy which she said we need to nurture. ‘There is a need for the rights holders to pay taxes so that resources will be available to be utilized for the development of their communities as depending on outside resources is not sustainable” The LRP Manager Dr. Saikou Sanyang dwelt on the work of ActionAid, its four strategic objectives and their relevance to the lives of the people. 

In a speech punctuated with loud applause, the Chief of Niamina East Kebba Touray commended ActionAid for its relentless and tireless efforts to eradicate poverty and injustice in the district. He advised people to pay their taxes regularly and for council to be more transparent on how revenue is utilized. The Chief was applauded for spearheading the first ever district tribunal to include women in the country.

The presentations that followed were made by the Chief Executive Officer, the Finance Director and the Development Officer of Jangjangbureh Area Council. It was revealed that Council’s projected revenue is 2 million dalasi annually yet it collects only 40% of that amount. Moreover, council is not the only tax collecting body. Other players like Gambia Revenue Authority, National Road Authority, Gambia Tourism Board and Gambia Livestock Marketing Agency all collect taxes in areas where Jangjangbureh Area Council was the sole collector. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Integration has commissioned a consultancy on local government reforms on decentralization and to come up with recommendations.

 During the question and answer session, community members asked why it has taken so long for Jangjangbureh Area Council to conduct such an interface, what plans will be put in place to curb the council’s high expenditure, why punitive measures are not taken against tax defaulters and whether the women district tribunal members are being paid by council These were just some of the questions posed by members of the public for enhanced understanding of revenue generation and utilization.

Over the coming months, ActionAid will provide support to Jangjangbureh Area Council for the development of a five year strategic plan and Memorandum of Understanding. The council will also work towards implementing the recommendations made during the meeting.