With support from the Revenue Development Foundation (RDF), the revenues from property taxation of Mzuzu City Council have increased by 200% this year compared to the entire previous financial year. At present, over 50% of the total billed property taxes have been paid as the financial year ending 1 July approaches. The ambitious target was 222 Million MWK, double the year before. The increase of generated revenues has continued throughout this financial year, already doubling the result from previous financial year. To date, the Revenue Mobilization Program (REMOP) in Mzuzu has assisted the City Council in billing nearly 40,000 properties.
A central element of the REMOP program is to strengthen the social contract between the City Council and its citizens as citizen engagement is viewed as critical to successful mobilization of local revenues from property rates. REMOP has a core sensitization component that brings the Local Council in front of the citizenry. The purpose is to discuss both charged rates and the benefits of services that the Council is to deliver in return. In Mzuzu, one of the many channels of sensitization has been the use of Ward meetings (detailed Ward maps can be found here). These are small gatherings of 100 to 150 people usually at the weekends after prayers. A senior administrator and a Councilor plus the ward block leaders attend the gatherings together with Civil Society Organizations. Although brief initial introductory speeches are made, feedback from attendees is the most animated part of the meetings. The Council representatives hear frank and often outspoken views of society and its most urgent needs. Citizens can then hear from Council about the costs of the services and the need for individuals to make their tax payment contribution.
The engagement through these types of interaction fosters a growing trust and a virtuous cycle of revenue mobilization leading to benefits for the local community.