By Erald Lamja and Silvana Meko –
As a result of steady increase of OSR, the Municipality of Vora has made significant investments in upgrading its urban and rural road infrastructure to modern standards. In addition, this municipality has invested in many local infrastructure projects, including recreational areas, playgrounds for children, water supply system, sidewalks, public lighting, etc. with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of its citizens.
Vora is a relatively small municipality (80 square kilometers) with 25,000 residents according to the Population and Housing Census of 2011. Located between the Albania’s two biggest cities –Tirana and Durres– Vora is a relatively new municipality that is struggling to meet the needs of its growing population.
Since 2012, USAID has been working together with its partner local government units to address systemic weaknesses and establish the building blocks for effective revenue administration at the local level. Efforts have been concentrated in establishing the necessary capital infrastructure, in building capacities of tax administrations, and in running taxpayers’ awareness campaigns. Based on this conceptual framework, USAID has supported its partner municipalities to implement property tax collection action plans to collect information and bill all property owners, create tax registers based on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), employ a computerized Tax Administration Information System, build capacity for local tax administrators, and conduct tax awareness and education programs targeted to both business and household taxpayers.
As a partner of the USAID Planning and Local Governance Project (PLGP), the Municipality of Vora has participated in many PLGP activities over the past 7 years that have built the capacity of municipal staff to improve the collection of own-source revenues (OSR) from local taxes and fees. They have also installed and implemented the USAID-funded Tax Administration Information System (TAIS) and improved service delivery.
For the second consecutive year, the 12 partner municipalities assisted by the USAID Project have increased their revenues by more than 30%.
The Municipality of Vora ranks among the three municipalities with the best performance in increasing OSR from local taxes and fees. Indeed, their sustainability over the last few years translates into an increasing rate of tax collection of $2.4 million in 2015, $2.9 million in 2016, and $3.2 million in 2017.
Why is the Municipality of Vora performing so well? What is its secret?
The Local Tax and Fee Department has a staff of 20 people, including on-site tax inspectors. “I think we are in the right place doing the right things together with the right people,”
says Mira, Head of the Business Sector of the Local Tax and Fee Department. “We are committed to do our job and we put a lot of efforts to succeed. We don’t collect taxes to improve figures and have graphics and charts to show off. Rather, we inform businesses and households regularly that their taxes will improve our citizens’ life, our children’s life. The revenues from local taxes and fees are only used for investments and to improve services for the citizens. This is what motivates us in our every day job,” says Klaudia, Head of Households’ Sector under this department.
It is not just their professionalism and commitment that makes their performance a success story. These women and their colleagues are residents of Vora, living with their families in this municipality. They bring up their children in this town. This is the very reason behind their commitment to applying the PLGP established TAIS tax systems and participating in training, and applying the skills learned in their work every day.
Photo by Erald Lamja