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How NRA Leads in the Agenda for Change

How NRA Leads in the Agenda for Change

The National Revenue Authority, the sole revenue collection agency in the country is ever determined to continue its leadership role in rebranding of the country using the President’s Agenda for Change in intensifying efforts to ensure that the country becomes a middle income country as outlined in the plans of the present government. 

Chiefly amongst other aspects of the President’s Agenda for Change is to transform the country’s economy from the perennial donor spell to a self sustained economy using national revenue collection as a primary tool, taking from what he said in the last State Opening of Parliament. This therefore obviously suggests that the NRA stands at the centre of the President’s aim to making the needed changes he has promised the people of this country in the areas of food self  sufficiency, basic health care service delivery, provision of electricity and the raising of the conditions of service of civil servants of the country.

When the current Commissioner General-CG of the National Revenue Authority Alleiu Sesay took over the office of the national Revenue Agency, he and his staff met with many heated criticisms, expressing pessimism of the competence and delivery of the team. Recent revelation though by the President of the Republic Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has exonerated the CG and his team commending them in the phenomenal improvement made in the country’s tax collection system, even going ahead to pronouncing that the “NRA is taking the lead in the Agenda For Change”. This seems to a great boost the spirit to thrive at NRA as in a recent interview with the Commissioner General reveals how much motivation this has brought to him and his men and women at NRA, strengthening their resolve to continue in the lead of taking the country out of the donor dependency syndrome.

When asked what is his opinion on the fact that the NRA has been charged with the lead in the agenda for change-achieving a self sustained economy, the CG said “finances are a critical tool to whatever development programme the government wants to undertake, and the NRA is the principal agency charge to generate such finances and if the NRA fails to collect such money programmes in the Agenda for Change that we all are talking about will not materialize and that is why NRA in its own wisdom is trying as best as possible to support such reform programmes by engaging with the stakeholders-mostly tax payers to let them understand  what their duties and obligations are and to ensure that they pay their taxes and that when they refuse such payments what the repercussions will be. We as well have worked assiduously well to ensure that we invoke certain procedures of the law that will ensure compliance in order that our role in the Agenda for Change is fully exploited in everything the government wants to do for we are charged with providing the fiscal space in all governmental undertakings.”

Answering questions as to how the tax reforms currently taking place at the Revenue agency spoken of by the President will ensure that there is improvement in the spate of tax collection, Mr. Sesay remarked that “the reforms we are talking about here are broad, we have a reform programme referred to as a modernization programme running for five years spanning from 2007 to 2011 targeting key areas like capacity building which ensures that the staff is given the capacity to conduct effective and efficient tax collection aimed at in the Agenda for Change and second, we have a drive to change the tax culture of the country. What we hope to achieve in trying to change the tax culture of the country is that people need to change their mentality on the issue of paying taxes as the only way we are able to run a government successfully and achieving the Agenda for Change is when we support it by paying our taxes when they are due and in the correct form.” 

Commissioner General Allieu Sesay also talked about infrastructural reforms done in the guise of automating the tax collection system in the country wherein the agency is aiming at reducing the drudgery and contact between tax collecting officers and tax payers. “That is why we are introducing the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDa) to ensure that all transactions in the country’s tax collecting system are carried out electronically and that will be launched by the end of the year” the CG told Sierra Express. This according to Allieu Sesay ensures effectiveness in the tax collection drive in the country and in turn will ensure that the government fulfils its obligations towards food security, employment, health care service delivery and all government programmes”.  

Mr. Allieu talked of the Goods and Services Tax that will be introduced in January 2010 that will ensure that when businesses purchase inputs; they will be able to reclaim them through taxes that will create extra income for businesses to employ more people, expand and get more profit which according to the CG will ensure that the revenue base of the country is strengthened and assured. He also revealed that NRA will by the end of the year try to integrate the taxes as domestic taxes will be introduced. This he said will put the income tax department, the GST and the non tax revenue as one which according to him will ensure that there is simultaneous examination and auditing that will help to recover more money for government which will go a long way in aiding the President’s Agenda for Change. 

Mr. Sesay however noted that capacity building is critical to the success of the agency in taking the lead to ensure a self driven economy. “The capacity of the NRA team needs to go alongside reforms made in the tax system if such innovations are to succeed” the CG said. The NRA however according to him is reaching out to all stakeholders to comply with the reforms made as they are not done solely to the advantage of the government as businesses will also be freed from the many huddles in the country’s manual tax collection system. 

Asked when in his opinion the President’s Agenda for Change will become a reality, the CG said “the Agenda for change is a process and that talking of a process, it is difficult for us to make specific projections as to when it will be completed. Agriculture, Health Care and Energy are primary in the Agenda for Change” and as you already know, the government has begun recording tremendous gains in those areas and as we go, the priorities will develop according to challenges; but the good news is that the process is already on and the grades are good”.

The NRA boss spoke of other supports to the Agenda for Change when he said duty waivers are given to the agricultural, health, education and other sectors relevant to the immediate achievement of the programme, so it’s a win, win situation he said.

On the strategy to be used to harness more revenue the CG told Sierra Express that the primary tool the agency is using is education, educating the public tax payers on the payment of taxes, second he said is the enforcement and debt management that is used to collect tax arrears (annually over 40 Billion Leones is collected on tax arrears alone), we have also streamlined and strengthened the tax collecting system and have put in place the post audit system and enforcement procedures. Basically he said, “we use the carrot and the stick procedure wherein we encourage the tax payers where necessary and use force when need be.” 

On the projection for the next year, the Commissioner General said although the Global Economic climate might tell on the level of revenue collected, he however said that the NRA has ensured that all the loop holes are closed that the best is realized from the country revenue, hoping that the business and external will create the right environment adding that “the chances that we beat the present mark we have set is better than 50/50.

Answering as to what is responsible for the gains despite many distractions from some section of the media and how he feels that the President of the Republic ha exonerated his and his team-putting them in the lead for the Agenda for Change, the CG remarked  “firstly, I was not in the country when this development took place but I was very much elated when he did not leave our success in the dark but made a public declaration of it; that I think has served as big boost to our resolve to do more and create the needed fiscal space that will enhance  the Agenda for Change” adding that “I want to send this message to all detractors that we at NRA don’t take to distraction, we have a job to do”.  

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    31st December 2009

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