Sierra Leone Brewery Clears the Air
“We are faced with the situation if Government continues to see as if money is not coming in they won’t see the real picture. The real picture is that they (importers of beverage) have imported a huge stock at the old rate and have extended the shelf life of the imported drinks from six months to one year six months to two years and they are selling and making huge profit. They are trying to stifle Government revenue collection to make it seem as if nothing is happening which is wrong.”
These were the words of Sierra Leone Brewery Limited (SLBL) officials while reacting to local reports that the newly-introduced Finance Act is causing the NRA to lose revenue.
Speaking at the Wellington Industrial Estate office in Freetown on Friday, 4th November, 2016, Sierra Leone Brewery officials on conditions of anonymity confirmed that the Finance Act was introduced in March this year, allegings that it did not come into effect until six months later in September this year.
The said officials added that during that period, importers of beverages took the opportunity to import very huge stocks into the country and also extended the shelf life of these imported beverages. It was also mentioned that it was done by these importers of beverages in order to make it seem as if they are currently not importing anything when in actual fact, they are now selling their old stocks at the new prices and making profit but presenting a picture as if nothing is happening and they are not importing anything.
On the other hand, it is implicated that the SLBL is losing out because since the Finance Act was introduced they have been fully complying by paying all the relevant taxes and levies to the NRA, the Freetown City Council etc. Again it was learnt that these importers are giving the impression as if Brewery is unable to supply the market and also unable to pay revenue in order to force the Government to overturn the Act simply because they had a field day during the six months before the Act came into force to bring in huge quantum of imported beverages to sell and make profit for at least two years.
This medium is of the understanding that in the case of Brewery, it ran down its old stocks and brought in new stock of Heineken which is sold at Le292,000 (two hundred and ninety two thousand Leones) while other importers sell much lower their own stocks of different brands. It was also intimated that Brewery after the introduction of the Act, paid the new rate in taxes and duties as high as Le500, 000,000 (five hundred million Leones) for two containers.
The officials continued that Brewery pays Excise duties, and that Brewery can challenge them (importers of beverages) that they are not even paying EPA and other levies to the Government. I can boast of this because we have records to prove this, one of the officials told this reporter.
They are calling on the authorities (NRA) and others to conduct a spot check on warehouses of importers of beverages to see whether what is said is not the truth. SLBL officials challenged the general public to also enquire whether the SLBL has not been actively engaged in providing massive employment for the entire country. They added that the SLBL is responsible for providing thousands of direct and indirect employment for distributors, transporters, bar owners and other people, adding that over (10) ten thousand farming families who are engaged in growing sorghum are benefitting directly because Brewery is purchasing sorghum from them only during the harvest season. We work with them and give them target during the planting season, another official informed.
“We cannot continue importing all the time,” they said furthering that “anyone who loves Sierra Leone should come and open their own factory, so that importing beverages would stop or be reduced drastically.” They went on to say that Brewery is paying import duty for Heineken and Cider, (Strong Bow); raw materials (malt etc), spare parts, packaging materials for example empty bottles, crates, crowns (stoppers), labels etc.
They added that Brewery also pays Excise duties for all locally produced drinks based on the volume produced; that is, the more produced the higher Excise duty paid. These officials added that the Brewery also pays PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn) for its entire staff, NASSIT fees, and pays annual EPA fees, plus import duty and levies taxes comprising 4.07 Billion Leones,3% advanced income tax, output GST, excise duty for local production, excise duty for imported beer, import duty and levy tax.
They maintained that unlike others, Brewery is thickly into performing its corporate social responsibilities (CSR). A top official of the company said Brewery is building schools and has built a hospital in Calaba Town which cost the company a little over one billion Leones in Constituency 98 ward 350 and in Constituency 97.
The officials called on the Government to understand the case of the Brewery and to inspect the records of importers at the Customs to see that they (importers of beverages) actually took undue advantage of the system to make it seem as if Brewery is unable to cope with the Finance Act which is entirely untrue.
They added that, they also want to educate the Government on the fact that the period to analyze the Breweries performance with regard its compliance with the Finance Act is too short, taking into consideration the above reasons and unfair completion practiced by importers of beverages which the Government needs to investigate and not wait until their huge stockpiles hurriedly brought into the country in March are depleted.
“Let them show evidence of their real stocks imported. Let the government check with Customs and the truth shall be revealed, the SLBL officials challenged.
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