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Taking the NRA to the people

Taking the NRA to the people

Goals can only be achieved when strategies are put in place. No matter what, even if there are strategies, at the same time, such goals could again be achieved when these strategies are followed and implemented fully. This is all what the aspect of public relations is concerned with. (Photo: Pa John Baimba Sesay)

A few days ago, I was, together with other staff of the NRA,   in the provincial headquarter towns of Bo, Kenema, Kono and Makeni to do a public education drive on the newly introduced Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) within the operations of Customs, of the National Revenue Authority.

Practically, the Customs and Excise Department, one of the key operational departments of the NRA, has continued to perform well, and may be, extremely well insofar as the revenue mobilization efforts of the National Revenue Authority are concerned. For last year, this department was able to generate over four hundred billion Leones for the central government and as stipulated in the NRA Act 2002, this money was lodged into the Consolidated Fund for use by the central government.

Also, this department has continued to ensure, the aspect of trade facilitation and the maintenance of national security are achieved. Over the years, the Customs and Excise Department has ensured, trade is facilitated between and among neighboring countries. The opening of the Koindu Customs Posts in recent times should serve as a pointer to the fact that trade facilitation has been going on through the efforts of the Customs and Excise Department.

However, there has always been the need to take the NRA to the people and get them informed on happenings within the NRA. And this was very fruitful, when recently the Authority was taken to the people, through several of our community radio stations across the country.  No need denying the fact that the NRA has done extremely well in the struggle for economic independence. All the radio discussions held in Bo, Kono, Kenema and Makeni were fruitful, based even on the issues that came up from the phone calls made by the public.

But also, the fact remains, people should be kept informed on a regular basis and the NRA, being an institution that believes in the concept of public communication has always seen the need to reach the people and talk to, and with them. And this was what happened recently in Bo, Kenema, Kono and Makeni.

The public education drive was mainly centered on ASYCUDA, computer software, used in several countries in customs operations. For now, ASYCUDA is mainly based in Freetown within customs and excise department, with plans to roll it out to places like Lungi, Kambia and Gendema. From a realistic and practical viewpoint, the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) ensures fast clearance of goods, and at the same time accounts for revenue collected for government and ensures compilation of trade statistics. It creates room for an open and transparent operation within a country’s Customs Department. It reduces the time one takes to go down to the Quay to clear goods.

When the NRA was taken to the people last week, one thing that they were told regarding ASYCUDA was that, the system has been introduced in line with the desire for national development; also because the functions of the Customs Department are mechanized for the provision of prompt information, effective service delivery, and revenue collection. The system is currently  been used by the customs department and it was developed by the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, an organization that oversees foreign trade procedures using international best practices and handling accounting, shipment and suspense regimes.

And one key message that was taken to the people was that the ASYCUDA system of Customs operation is part of the NRA’s Modernization Plan. It is also aimed at ensuring a friendly tax environment and at the same time ensuring fairness and equity within the tax environment. Again, there have been few complaints from taxpayers, that they spend much time in clearing goods from the Quay and in trying to tackle this problem, thus meeting the needs of taxpayers, the NRA decided to introduce this fast way of clearing goods from the port. This therefore indicates that the NRA has always taken the wishes of the people into account when decisions are taken, and this is great. So, when we went up country and explained all of these Sierra Leoneans, they came to appreciate the efforts of the NRA in national development.

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