This report analyses survey data, collected by the author between March and June 2003, from five chiefdoms in Sierra Leone. The aim of the survey was to investigate the capacity of chiefdom administrations to assess and collect local tax and the relationships between taxation, political representation, and citizenship at the chiefdom level. The first section of the report explores the legal and technical development of financial administration and representative authority in the chiefdoms, with particular attention to the policy assumptions that underlay it. The second section analyses the survey data, which were collected before the new decentralised local government structures were put in place. They indicate that chiefdom financial administration is barely functional and suffers greatly from poor staff working conditions and lack of transparency and accountability among district level administrations. The rural public have little confidence in the local tax system and are unlikely to cooperate with it any further until tangible benefits from local tax revenue begin to flow in their direction. However, tax assessment (if not payment) also has a political purpose and evidence was found of manipulation of tax assessment rolls in order to yield extra chiefdom councillors. The decline of the formal taxation system has already fostered the return of patronage as the primary method for selecting chiefdom councillors. As things currently stand, the new District Councils will have great difficulty in collecting any meaningful revenue from the chiefdoms. Yet, chieftaincy is still valued as a source of protection for customary citizenship rights and local calls for reform are muted for fear of what might replace the chieftaincy system.
Tax Administration and Representative Authority in the Chiefdoms of Sierra Leone.