IRAS: Gulu City councilors want revenue collection system disbanded
“Gulu City Town Clerk said there are no set policies for running the newly created Cities…”
By Okello Jesus Ojara
Gulu – February 9, 2022: Gulu City Council councilors have questioned the usefulness and the timeliness of the Integrated Revenue Administration System (IRAS) in the local service delivery to the local communities of the city.
In a meeting, the councilors argued that the IRAS has “greatly impacted negatively” on the service delivery to the electorates since the funds remitted to the Ministry of Finance were delayed to be remitted on time to the local governments to support its functionality.
On the same note, the councilors also noted that even their allowances have not been paid since August 2021. Each division councilor is demanding the ministry shs350, 000 for the past seven months.
Meanwhile, each councilor from a division to the city council is demanding shs700, 000 in arrears for the same months.
Joyce Obita, female councilor IV disclosed that IRAS has greatly delayed service delivery to the electorates, adding that it is not all about their allowances but the fulfillment of their promises to the voters.
She further noted that the failure by the Ministry of Finance has greatly affected her ward (constituency) since the roads that were newly opened are now bushy and inaccessible because there is no money to complete and maintain the roads.
“This IRAS thing is not working anymore, what will I tell my voters if there is garbage all over the streets, it is useless now and should be scrapped off,” noted Obita.
Collins Atube Bolingo, the Pece – Laroo Deputy Speaker noted that service delivery has been badly affected by the IRAS system of revenue collections due to the much delay by the Ministry of Finance to remit back the 20 percent to the City for service delivery.
He added that in Pece – Laroo division, there is garbage all over the streets, adding that money for roads maintenance and repair of damaged street lights are not there.
“Even our health department has been greatly affected by this so-called IRAS system which is not good for our growth and development,” added Bolingo.
He further disclosed that the City has remitted over shs2 billion to the Ministry of Finance as locally raised revenue in the last financial year but the Ministry only allocated shs400 million for the whole City.
He argued that the shs400 million can be utilized within only one week for garbage collections and maintenance of the street lights and cannot be used for other activities.
An insider among the technical staff of the City revealed that the City staff are fueling on credits from the different petrol stations within the City.
The male councilor to Laroo-Pece division also a Representative for Persons with Disabilities noted that the roads that have been opened are inaccessible; adding that insecurity within the City is on the rise due to damaged and faulty street lights.
The water reach and supply within other areas of the City is now a challenge due to insufficient funds, he added.
“This shs491 million sent to us is not enough for the City and we need a supplementary budget urgently and this IRAS be scrapped from the City and we go back to the physical way of revenue collections,” he added.
Leonard Odoki, male elders’ representative to Pece – Laroo disclosed that the laxity of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Local Government over the proper transitions of the newly created Cities has dragged service delivery to its grave.
He further noted even the Gulu City Members of Parliament are also a disappointment to the people of Gulu. On the other hand, he said corruption within the City and among some goons in the Ministry of Finance has also affected service delivery to the local community.
Susan Acan, female councilor of Pece – Laroo City division disclosed that there is a great communication gap between the City councilors and technical staff especially those who had traveled to the Ministry to inquire about the issue of the funds for Gulu City.
She further noted that an informer has disclosed that the Ministry of Finance has no knowledge about Gulu City remittance and its demand for the supplementary budget for the functionality of the City.
She, however, noted that the Ministry demands that Gulu should prove that there is money in the City accounts so that the Ministry can release the supplementary budget they are requesting for.
Robert Komakech, Bardege – Layibi division Speaker said they have never implemented any resolution for the people because of the 20 percent remittance by the Ministry of Finance.
He has asked fellow councilors to join hands and fight for a common goal so that the electorates benefit from their elections to different offices through better service delivery.
Lambart Lamex Akena, Deputy Speaker Gulu City Council warned members on failing to realize the reasons for their being in the office by forgetting about the electorates.
“We should not think only of our allowances, but this fight is about service delivery to the people,” he noted.
“We shall not stay put and watch those goons in the Ministry eating the money that we have locally collected, our sweat, working tirelessly down here with the town agents. They must remit the money and approve the supplementary of shs3.8b,” Lamex added.
According to Moses Otimong, Gulu City Town Clerk, there are no set policies for running the newly created Cities, and these Cities, said are operating on local Government Acts and there is a need for a new policy for these Cities so that service delivery is improved.
He also noted that since the piloting of the IRAS system, the revenue performance of Gulu improved to ‘3990 percent’ in the past fiscal year.
Alfred Okwonga, Gulu City Mayor disclosed that the Ministry of Finance has locked money of the City in the treasury and this has affected service delivery to the local people.
Denish Okot, Chief Finance Officer Gulu City disclosed that though the councilors are arguing against the IRAS system, they should note that the IRAS has also helped a lot in revenue collections of the City.
He said since its piloting in Gulu Municipality in 2019, there had been some great improvement in revenue collections though there were challenges that led to the abrupt stoppage of the system in November 2020.
“The system faces numerous challenges which include corruption from some town agents and unwillingness by taxpayers to register for the service.”
Gulu City has registered a total of 6,618 people on IRAS and has collected a total of shs542, 111,322 million as of February 4, 2022, according to the financial report.
The IRAS is a web and mobile application platform that aids municipalities and cities in the collection of local revenue from registration, assessment, billing, payment sensitization of taxpayers and linking the citizens to municipalities or cities with the main objective of strengthening the local government’s revenue administration capacity leveraging digital technology.
Currently, IRAS is operational in 36 local governments with the piloting local governments of Nansana, Gulu, Fort Portal, Amuria, Yumbe, Zombo, and Adjumani.