2019… NRA Targets Le5 Trillion

 

The Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), Dr. Jibao has said in Freetown that his institution targets revenue collection of a little over Le5 Trillion for 2019. The ultimate target, he said, is to raise annual revenue collection to Le9 Trillion, about 20% of GDP.

Dr. Jibao made the statement whilst speaking on the success and challenges faced by NRA since he took over. He called the journey of maximizing revenue collection as one that has just begun. “We have not landed yet but we are on the right track,” he remarked.

Before hitting the mark, he said, NRA has many things to fix for which they started in 2018 with planning and moving to implementation this year.

Tax administration needs political support which he said, has been so far, excellent, adding that before now, the Authority suffered from undue political interference. Dr. Jibao thanked President Bio for the support that he receives from him, noting that for NRA to succeed, there has to be a lot of political will. He thanked President Bio for the confidence reposed in him and for giving him a free hand to do his work as he deems fit.

He also thanked NRA staff and the people of Sierra Leone for their cooperation in helping him reach organizational targets, stating that his achievements so far belong to the people of Sierra Leone.

Since he took over, the result in terms of revenue collection has been remarkable, jumping from around Le800 billion in the first quarter of 2018 to consistently over Le1.Trillion in the last four quarters. Revenue, he said, has been gradually moving up in a positive trajectory.

Asked how this success has been achieved so far, Dr. Jibao singled out staff motivation, policy and reassessment. Before, there were managers that were not managing. That is, they did not have responsibility and accountability. Reassessment included finding out those who were not paying their taxes, a source of huge revenue loss. For example, NRA has found out that it was saddled with 65% GST claims credit. Action was to immediately suspend all GST credit and do a thorough audit of the system leading to massive improvement in revenue collection from that source.

Another action taken by his administration to boost tax collection he said is undertaking of field audits done through setting up of a specialized unit within NRA for that. So they discovered that for example, the Kenema and Bo offices have not been audited fir the past five years. The report revealed a lot including about Le45 billion in unclaimed taxes.

Another reform area that has yielded positively he said is enforcement which before he said was not good. “If you do not pay tax, we enforce.”

Another area of improvement has been data matching through collaborating with line institutions to gain information through which a lot of unpaid taxes were discovered.

Another development has been monitoring of staff against complaints.

One major issue NRA is grappling with, Dr. Jibao said is tax education; a priority that he said has been placed under his supervision. NRA he said will embark on marketing itself.

In terms of revenue collection at customs and at the quay, Dr. Jibao said that there had been a culture of massive undervaluation of imports and exports. The system, he said, is being reviewed including getting information from importing countries of the true value of goods. Undervaluing, he said, had to do with the integrity of staff which he said was at low ebb allowing importers and exporters not to pay correct duties.

They are working on that inducing the fear factor of prosecution by the ACC, citing that several erring NRA staffs are under probe currently by the ACC.

Another area NRA has scrubbed he said is that of discretionary duty waivers which Dr. Jibao said was widely abused to the tune of over Le215 billion in just one year.

The discrepancy, he said, led to an unfair trading platform as those who enjoyed exemptions sold their goods at the same price as duty payers. Its removal, he added, has impacted significantly on revenue collection.

Principally, Dr Jibao stated that due to the administrative strategies employed by NRA since his arrival, revenue has been growing upwards steadily, with no increase in taxes, as falsely believed in some quarters. What has happened, he said has been broadening of the tax base to include those that were non compliant, those who were not paying their correct taxes and those that were not paying at all, including those who own rented properties.

He stated that together with the Trade ministry, measures will be put in place to ensure that businesses do not fleece consumers by falsely claiming that NRA has increased taxes.

He also commented on the role of clearing and forwarding agents in distorting the trade climate by them charging their clients exorbitantly and issuing them undervalued receipts. This too, he said, will be stopped with the appropriate strategy.

Non-tax revenue from the fisheries sector, he disclosed, is going to be maximized in partnership with the Ministry of Finance through increased surveillance and reporting.

“We are on the right track,” Dr. Jibao said, adding that his target of raising revenue collection to Le9 trillion in the coming years is achievable with the restructuring of the NRA machinery to become more professional; efficient; transparent and target-focused on whom to pay and who not to pay, which, according to him, has been a serious problem.

“NRA now has a strong team including the board, management and staff,” Dr Jibao assured.