Masindi municipal council has lost Shs 50m in revenue over the past two months as a result of restrictions imposed in response to the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic, says Gafa Kate, the Masindi municipal Town Clerk.
In a bid to control the spread of the novel Coronavirus, the President Museveni instituted a national lockdown that included closure of so-called non-essential businesses, as well as suspension of passenger transport, a situation that has led to a reduction in revenue for districts.
According to Gafa, the Masindi Municipal council had a 12 billion budget for FY 2019/20, of which 1.5 billion was to be generated from local revenue while other funds would come from the central government.
However, with lockdown ongoing, revenue collection is a problem.
“Since we went into the lockdown we cannot collect property tax, street parking tax, loading and offloading fees and market dues, since most businesses are not working,” Gafa explained.
In total, the Town Clerk revealed, the Municipal Council is Shs 50m short of its revenue target for the past two months.
“The most affected department is Health, especially when it comes to garbage collection. Most of the local revenue is attached to paying casual labourers especially those who collect garbage. Currently our hands are tied; we have to persevere with the situation,” Gafa noted.
She added that, come next financial year, the Councillors may miss out on their allowance, which is normally paid out of the local revenue.
Abdul Latif Agaba, the acting Chief Finance Officer, Masindi municipal council, says currently most revenue coming in is from issuance of operational permits to people who need to enter their houses and those that need business licenses in order to get loans from financial institutions.
“People who directly get services from the municipality will have to be patient especially when it comes to garbage collection since the local revenue has drastically reduced,” Agaba said.
Joy Namata, a vendor at Masindi Central market is concerned that the reduction in local revenue will exacerbate the market’s existing garbage management problem.
“We have already been grappling with garbage in this market when the municipal was collecting enough money. How will it be in this situation of Coronavirus?” Namata wondered.
According to residents of Masindi town who spoke to theCooperator, the restrictions imposed as part of the lockdown have affected even businesses that were allowed to remain open.
For example, several restaurants remain closed on grounds that most of their customers went back to the villages as a result of the lockdown.
Mary Kabagaya, a business woman who operates a small restaurant in Masindi town says she was forced to close her business since most of her customers like boda boda riders, welders, mechanics and saloon operators returned to their villages and have never come back due to transport challenges.
Violet Katusiime, a food seller, at Masindi Central Market observed that they have suffered a significant drop in customer numbers , adding that she has gone from earning between Shs 25000 – 35000 daily, to Shs 5000- 8000 per day during lockdown.
She hopes that district authorities will give the beleaguered traders a break from paying taxes until business stabilises.
“I don’t expect to see revenue officers at my stall when I am also not working,” Katusiime said.
Another food vendor who declined to be named re-echoed Katusiime’s sentiments, saying that while she would have loved to pay the requisite taxes, she is overwhelmed with many responsibilities and yet her income is much reduced.
“How can I pay revenue when my children are starving at home?” she asked.