The National Revenue Authority (NRA) engaged a cross section of the media, print and electronic, on the 19th June 2019 at their Wellington Street conference hall in order to update them on the strides so far made, reforms that have been rolled out, achievements scored as well as some of the challenges they are grappling with.
Chairing the press conference, Jeneba Bangura who happens to be the Deputy Commissioner General thanked all for leaving their busy schedules to attend, going further to introduce the various Heads of Departments and representatives of the Authority.
In his statement, the Commissioner General of NRA, Dr. Samuel Gibao, disclosed that President Julius Maada Bio appointed him to serve in his current capacity on the 5th June 2018 to provide leadership for the country’s tax administration.
He highlighted that prior to that he has worked for the NRA before adding that when he was appointed he knew exactly what to do to affect the current reforms they are rolling out.
“After one year, this year, we are meeting the media for the first time with good tidings of a renewed chronicle on account of our leadership of the NRA and I am proud to come back to the media to say we are on the path to situating this institution as a modern public institution of excellence in Sierra Leone,” the Commissioner General underscored.
He noted that in a little over one year they quickly effected an institutional audit and they identified huge challenges of financial constraints with outstanding arrears to suppliers , a grossly understaffed management and officers , office accommodation, procurement bottlenecks and a host of others.
Jibao revealed how the Board, Management and Staff have been committed in stabilizing the situation adding that the conference is meant to showcase their ever increasing revenue collection since they took oversight of the institution.
He informed that the NRA recorded revenue increase by 36% over 2017 in 2018. “The revenue GDP ratio increased by 1.5% which is not only historical but comparable with any high performing revenue collecting country around the world,” he proudly stated, furthering that the IMF and the Government of Sierra Leone are impressed at the level at which the institution is exceeding all the targets set for it over the last one year.
The Commissioner-General pointed out that they have filled out 70% of senior Management positions underscoring the important position of Deputy Commissioner General. He stated how the integrity of the institution has been questioned in many quarters saying they have reconstituted and made effective the disciplinary committee that preside over reported staff corruption cases.
“The relationship between NRA and the Ministry of Finance has improved significantly and this has improved tax administration as well as policy formulation,” Jibao intimated, adding that staff welfare has been enhanced.
Dr. Philip Kargbo, Director of Monitoring, Research and Planning, during a power-point presentation dilated on the NRA reforms that are in progress. He gave a brief background of the NRA and made mention of a new reform called ASYCUDA World which he said replaced the ASYCUDA ++.Dr. Philip highlighted that it is a web-based advance version that comes with many benefits and functionalities
“The ASYCUDA World was rolled out at the main seaport on the 21st January 2019 and it was done to SALPOST and the Lungi International Airport with the hope that same will be done at Gbalamuya,” he told newsmen and stated that it makes it possible for importers to clear their goods in a faster manner, pointing out how an importer can even be at home and do his transaction without any interface as well as improving transparency.
The Director mentioned another reform which he referred to as ITAS, which he said is a web-based system for domestic tax administration with many benefits to the taxpayer, NRA and the Government. He said this innovation makes it possible for an integrated tax system through which taxpayers can fill and pay taxes online thereby preventing queuing and waste of time. Dr Kargbo stated that data verification is currently underway to update the tax register which will be migrated to ITAS.
He also revealed that they have put in place an Electronic Cash Register (ECR/EFIS), which is an electronic fiscal invoicing device system designed for sales data capture and reporting, very beneficial to revenue generation and enhanced business accounting as well as stock management.
He also recounted other reforms before mentioning their recent achievements, which includes staff capacity building, integrity improvement, improved relationship with stakeholders and financial management.
Dr. Kargbo disclosed that from 1st January to 31st May 2019 the NRA raised Le2.229 rtillion,36.5% higher than same period in 2017 and higher than what was collected for the whole first half of 2017 by Le240 billion with June collection yet to come in.
In terms of challenges he mentioned inadequate accommodation, need for an ICT Training Lab, managing multiple reforms concurrently, satisfying Government’s urgent need for revenues, while pursuing medium term reforms concurrently and a challenging economy, including slower economic growth and slow recovery from the iron ore sector.
Questions and answers climaxed the press conference.