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Determining the role of NRA’s Customs and Excise Department in Sierra Leone’s development agenda

Determining the role of NRA’s Customs and Excise Department in Sierra Leone’s development agenda

Indeed, the National Revenue Authority is the latest institution to have captured the attention of our President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and to me; this is all in line with the President’s determination to see the socio-economic growth of Sierra Leone. (Photo: Pa John Baimba Sesay)

When President Koroma took over the state of affairs of the country almost three years ago, he saw the need to ensure, that the average Sierra Leonean feels the effect of his governance style and to this end, much has happened that should even warrant the country humbly give him a second chance, come 2012.

Walking down the streets of Freetown, you will realize the way and manner President Koroma is being appreciated by the common man in the streets; the latest topic of discussion among Sierra Leoneans being the stance of the President on the issue of corruption.

 When the President turned his attention on the NRA and more specifically the Customs and Excise Department, it was meant to ensure, things move in the right direction. And so far, management and staff of the NRA have continued to work in line with the expectations of the President and people of this country. President Koroma knows that the Customs and Excise Department of the NRA is vital to the socio-economic growth of Sierra Leone and over the years, this department has continued to work in meeting the challenges of a post war economic, however there are a number of challenges and these challenges are ones that could be met.

Take the challenge of people falsely declaring their goods or under-declaring. These are serious challenges that will definitely be met by the Customs and Excise Department, especially following the intervention of the   President. Practically the recent container scam that swallowed up the Authority will serve as a way of putting more mechanisms in place, aimed at correcting the wrongs that have been occurring. There are dedicated staffs at the Customs and Excise Department and they will surely live up to our expectation as a nation.

In addressing the problem of people falsely declaring their goods, there have been constant efforts by the Customs and Excise Department aimed at ensuring the full implementation of the ASYCUDA, the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA). This is a computer software package that is used by Customs Administrations in about 90 countries, in processing documents which relate to export and import of goods.  This system will seriously help the NRA and particularly Customs in curtailing under-invoicing and at the same time help in increasing on government revenue and it facilitate trade

Haja Kallah

Haja Kallah, Acting Commissioner-General, NRA

This system was developed by the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development which covers most foreign trade procedures. It is today in operation in Rwanda, Liberia Nigeria et al countries.

In Rwanda, the process has been appreciated by clearing agents who see it as one of the best ways to clear goods .On the 8th October 2009, all Africa.com, an online news medium  reported that Clearing agents hailed the software adapted in Rwandan customs to speed up the clearance of goods and reduce delays in deliveries to customers. It report further states that ‘the automated system used by clearing companies and customs suits well in the customs move to facilitate taxpayers’ with on-line filing and electronic payment systems.  It quoted one Eric Nsengimana, SDV Transami’s Operations Manger, as saying “the system helped in speeding up the declaration processing and shortening the clearance time. According to Nsengimana, the days of clearing has reduced from three days to one day…The system has improved our efficiency, to have accurate and timely information and meet changes in technology to meet demands of modern trade,” he said.

This is what we are also expecting in Sierra Leone when ASYCUDA is fully operationalised by the National Revenue Authority. Since last year, series of trainings, which are comparable to international values, have been got  for staff of the Customs and Excise Department and this is all moving towards ensuring an effective and smooth revenue generation exercise by CED. At the moment the test phase is in process and from all indications, it is also appreciated by importers in Sierra Leone. Customs wants to make the system of clearing goods more trustworthy so that shipping, clearing and forwarding agents and warehouse owners can operate within an acceptable scheme.

But one may need to move the issue further by looking also at the revenue generation effort of the Customs and Excise Department. Generally, the National Revenue Authority was able to generate a total amount of Le 698.780 billion which exceeded the Authority’s yearly target of Le 671.390 billion by Le 27.390 billion (or 4.1%) for the period January – December of 2009. Of this amount the Customs and Excise Department exceeded its yearly target of Le404.998 billion by Le14.197 billion. This was and is still good news. So despite the challenges Customs has continued to face, the department has continued to generate more funds.

But from a holistic point of view, the Customs and Excise Department and by extension the NRA will only be able to overcome the challenges of modern day revenue generation when the public continues to support them. Practically the aspect of smuggling is a serious issue and a crime against the state. But it is only when people give out vital information that the NRA could be able to track down smugglers.

Again the aspect of public trust and confidence is very vital. There are bad eggs in any given institution, not least the NRA but the action of a few should not be used to categorize the entire setup. For all you know there are dedicated and committed workers at the Customs and Excise Department who want to see the development of Sierra Leon; and these workers should be encouraged to continue to give their time and service to Sierra Leone. Even the Acting Commissioner-General of the NRA, Haja Kallah Kamara has emphasized the point that it is only with the support and corporation of NRA staff, importers and business people that the NRA could succeed. Indeed, public support is what the NRA and particularly Customs needs at the moment. With that more is definitely sure of coming up, in terms of national development. 

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  • First, I would like to congrtatulate President Koroma of Sierra Leone for his achievements and his concern to his country. The NRA department and Excise Department agenda can only be achieve when the people will actively participate in order also for both parties to effectively do their part. Let us not waste time on adverse criticism that will only initiate rumors and obnoxious comments, instead, let us work hand in hand in achieving our goals.

    21st March 2010

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