Governor Ottichilo: This is how I want to grow own revenue

Vihiga County Governor Wilber Ottichilo

Vihiga County Governor Wilber Ottichilo. He plans to boost the county's revenue collection amid a major cash crunch.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The County Government of Vihiga will soon introduce five new revenue streams in its quest to realise Sh500 million annually from local sources to help narrow the financing gap in its budget.

 Other than land rates proposed through the 2023/24 Finance Bill, the devolved unit will also activate levies on the lucrative sand harvesting, brick making, harvesting of tree poles and artisanal gold mining, whose activities have intensified across the county.

The county is also planning to activate parking fees across all major towns after it gets necessary approvals from the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha).

The latest strategy that includes automation and establishment of the County Revenue Authority is coming at a time when the collections have plummeted to about Sh200 million.

Defunct local authorities used to generate Sh350 million with Governor Wilber Ottichilo saying the devolved unit has the capacity of raising more than Sh500 million.

The plan to boost revenue collection is coming at a time when the county has been hit by a major cash crunch that has been caused by delayed exchequer releases.

The governor said he met revenue officers in the county and noted that they had settled on additional new streams to help save the ailing own source generation.

"I met with the County Revenue Team to discuss automation and other strategies towards raising the county revenue collection against the set targets," said Dr Ottichilo.

"My administration has also begun the process of establishing the Vihiga County Revenue Authority that will assess, collect and account for all revenues in accordance with the written county laws and the specified provisions of the written laws," he added.

To activate the land rates collections, Dr Ottichilo said his administration is focused on coming up with the County Valuation Roll.

This, he said, will inform the inclusion of land rates as a revenue stream in the 2023/24 Finance Bill.

In February this year, Dr Ottichilo's administration started registering landowners in urban areas in the county to enable them to start paying rates to the local administration.

The land rates revenue stream has remained inactive since the inception of devolution in 2013.

The registration lasted for 30 days and was spearheaded by the department of Physical Planning, Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

Collections from land rates are intended to boost revenue generation at a time when municipalities are beginning to spring up.

Under devolution, Vihiga County has established three municipalities; one in Vihiga covering the five towns of Mbale, Chavakali, Majengo, Gisambai and Mudete.

The other municipalities are Luanda and Cheptulu.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), had earlier indicted the devolved unit over lack of clarity on collection of land rates due to the absence of a lands register.

Through its risk assessment report, EACC said it was impossible for Vihiga County to collect land rates in the region due to lack of a valuation roll.

A valuation roll is a legal document that consists of property information of all rateable properties within the county.

Further to activation of more revenue streams, Dr Ottichilo said his administration is currently forming a County Revenue Inspectorate that will ensure businesses adhere to the Finance Bill.

The governor said his administration is also instituting automation and recruitment of additional revenue officers to address staff gaps as part of the new revenue strategies.