NRA Chairperson Appeals for support to data analytics & Establishment of Data Warehouse

During 3rd BRITACOM…

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National Revenue Authority in Sierra Leone.

By Abubakarr Harding

The 3rd Belt and Road Tax Administration Cooperation Mechanism- (BRITACOM) was held in Algiers with the theme: “Enhancing Tax Administration Capacity Building in the Post-Pandemic Era”. Representing the National Revenue Authority (NRA) was the Board Chairperson of that institution, Adama Tuma Gento-Kamara, who in a bid for the Authority to continue to institute sustainable reforms made a strong case, on behalf of Sierra Leone, by appealing for support to be given to data analytics and for the establishment of a data warehouse for the National Revenue Authority in Sierra Leone.

In her keynote address, the Vice Chairperson of  BRITACOM), Tuma Adama Gento Kamara, highlighted some of the most important digital reforms made so far by the NRA in the last three years noting the immense changes in the country’s revenue administration.

She continued that despite those positive steps a wide range of institutional weaknesses persist and according to her that is where the practicality of capacity building comes in.

“These weaknesses ultimately have the potential to negatively impact on the revenue mobilization drive of the Government,” she said.

The NRA Board Chair said that the limited capacity building and inability to catch up with the levels of revenue/GDP performance of many of the performing countries in the African continent are caused by a combination of factors such as the lack of access to reliable data, weak capacity in data analytics, low capacity of ICT staff and the inability to retain them, the lack of skills for revenue intelligence analysis, low taxpayer education, the adoption of reform projects, the absence of an evaluation mechanism to assess their effectiveness and the lack of exposure to best practices from other countries which have successfully implemented ICT reforms.

She said for countries like Sierra Leone, one of the main problems causing low institutional capacity is the lack of access to reliable revenue data. Although the NRA has introduced ICT systems, some key business processes are still performed manually, which render access to reliable data impossible especially when the systems are yet to be integrated or linked.

The Board Chairperson continued that staff responsible for research and monitoring have to extract data manually from the archives which is not only time consuming, but also impairs the quality of data needed to inform tax audit, risk assessment, forecasting and research.

As a first step to addressing the problem of accessing reliable data, Tuma Gento- Kamara, said the institution is planning to set up a Data Analytics unit dedicated to extracting and analyzing data regularly to inform risk management, tax audit, forecasting and research.

That unit, she said, is expected to be trained and provided with advanced data analytics software to ensure it handles all data needs in the Authority. Establishing and capacitating the Data Analytics unit is therefore a key indicator to the success of the project.

Moreover, the NRA Board Chair said that the institution is seeking to establish a data warehouse which provides a one stop shop for data accessibility. According to her it is a software platform where data from internal ICT revenue systems and from Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government will be stored and retrieved for analysis. According to her, achieving accessibility to data will be dependent on the creation of a data warehouse system.

The data warehouse, she said, will partly feed from NRA ICT systems such as ASYCUDA World, ITAS and ECR, as well as operational systems of MDAs with a stake in revenue collection. Linking all these systems together makes it easier for users of the data.

She suggested four recommendations that she thinks will ensure sustainability and benefit of technological advancement to tax administrations of BRITACOM:

In the first place, ICT staff and project management teams of the technological systems of tax administrations must be fully capacitated and incentivized to ensure retention of their services.

In addition, a central ICT training lab should be established within the continent of Africa to train ICT staff and project management teams in the technologies of the systems rolled out and those that constantly evolve with time.

She informed that Sierra Leone already has vast acreage of land space for such a training lab that can serve the rest of members of the continent.

Thirdly, by building capacity in data management including setting up of a data warehouse system and data analytics function within revenue administrations.

To strengthen capacity in digital communication through making use of interactive tools in the ICT systems of revenue administrations to reach out to taxpayers whilst they can also seek clarifications and forward complaints using the same interactive tools.

According to her, many of the revenue systems being rolled out today provide for such facility, but not sufficiently utilized to reach the elite taxpayers who contribute the larger portion of revenues raised by tax administrations.

She concluded that if the impact of BRITACOM is to be felt within member countries those areas must be supported or given serious consideration.

The NRA Board Chairperson therefore called on China, as leader of the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Mechanism, to join hands with other member countries to seriously consider the aforementioned areas of support for sustainable technology usage and capacity building in BRITACOM Revenue Administrations.

National Revenue Authority in Sierra Leone.

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