Berbera, Somaliland,- Thirty – five municipal officers drawn from 11 districts of Somaliland took part in a workshop to share experiences as a way of improving service delivery in the region. They exchanged views and experiences on municipal finance, analyzed common challenges, and identified potential solutions at a workshop organized by the UN-Habitat Joint Programme on Local Governance, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior.

Abdirahim Aw Ahmed, the administration and finance director of Gebilay District explained that tax collection within the community is decentralized by dividing the district into equal zones and allocating each of the four tax stations in the district to specific tax collection agents who may seek back up or reinforcement from other tax agents. Tax agents submit the revenue collected to a cashier who issues the agent with an original receipt, with copies sent to the department of taxes and the Ministry of Finance.

The importance of revenue generation campaigns to sensitize communities on the need to pay taxes to support delivery of social services by local governments was underlined by UN-Habitat municipal finance officer Ahmed Aden Yusuf, a former administration and finance director of Buroa Municipality. He advised municipal employees to develop quarterly plans and pursue revenue targets aggressively, while adhering strictly to approved work plans and budgets.

The local government administrators also exchanged views on making local governments sustainable and accountable entities for local governance, including ways of enhancing local revenues through effective tax administration and expenditure management, the vital role of digital payments for improved accountability and transparency, and strengthening the role of internal audit units. Participatory budgeting and the importance of inclusivity, pro-poor planning, public participation, and the process of developing district development frameworks were also discussed.

Berbera Mayor Abdishakur Mohamoud Hassan recounted his early days in office when he found out that the district had no firefighting equipment, making residents vulnerable in the event of a fire. On inquiring, he was informed that there was no budget for firefighting equipment.

“I reshuffled departmental directors, ensuring that the fire department had a qualified and committed director. The following year, firefighting equipment was included in the budget and a fire brigade unit established for the municipality.”

One of the most outstanding and effective practices commended by participants was the automation of tax collection systems which has helped municipalities to improve revenue collection, strengthen transparency and accountability, and generate real time financial reports.

The critical role of local government in the improvement of community livelihoods was clear to all participants. They were challenged to ensure effective and efficient service delivery in order to gain the trust of their communities as trust is a vital element in resource mobilization and community partnerships.