The New Face Of  NRA

 

By David Jabati

The National Revenue Authority (NRA) is the country’s breadbasket and an institution the government relies on for the much needed revenue to run the state.

It therefore goes without saying that officials of that institution must be honest in dealing with the people’s money.

The recent news that the former NRA Commissioner General, Madam Haja Kallah Kamara and another official of the Authority were arrested for alleged corrupt practices at the Authority, following an audit report indicates, a great deal, that corruption had become endemic in that money-collecting institution that was ran like a private banana farm.

With a young and dynamic tax expert at the helm of affairs, tax payers have begun seeing a completely new face of NRA where there is no longer business-as-usual.

The newly appointed NRA Commissioner General, Dr. Samuel Jibao is widely known to be a workaholic and a fixer whose wealth of experience coupled with diligence would change things around in an institution that was at the brink of collapse under the former leadership alleged to have squandered billions of Leones.

“I don’t go for failure and I want the excuses to be very little, so let us again reenergize the professionalism in which the authority was built,” Dr. Jibao who had worked for the Authority before said during the handing over ceremony by his predecessor.

The revenue target of Le9 trillion in the next five years set by President Julius Maada Bio, he said, is quite steep but was confident that it is achievable. “The challenges will be there but I know we are specialists…” he stated confidently.

As a PhD holder in Economics and an ICTD researcher specialized in public economics with special focus on taxation, it is expected that he would meet if not exceed the set target.

Dr. Jibao was before his appointment Director of the Centre for Economic Research and Capacity Building in Sierra Leone, Senior Lecturer at the Africa tax Institute – University of Pretoria and former Deputy Director of the Monitoring, Research and Planning Department of the NRA.

He has reportedly published a good number of research materials focusing specifically on Sierra Leone. These include – Rebuilding Local Government Finance After Conflict: The Political Economy of Property Tax Reform in Sierra Leone and The Political Economy of Property Tax in Africa: Explaining reform outcomes in Sierra Leone.

Speaking to The Exclusive recently, Dr. Jibao said his interest in tax stems from his understanding and conviction that taxation is a cornerstone of broad-based development and a secure, efficient and sustainable way to finance Africa’s development.

“It provides a stable flow of revenue to finance development priorities such as strengthening health, education, physical infrastructure, and is interwoven with numerous other policy areas, from good governance and formalising the economy, to spurring growth,” he said.

Currently, the NRA Chief is busy touring NRA offices across the country trying to put measures in place to reach the Authority’s set target.

Addressing NRA staff recently at the Gbayamuya Customs post on the dangers of smuggling, Dr. Gibao said “there are two types of smuggling – technical and physical.” Technical smuggling, he explained, is when NRA staff negotiate tax with traders or importers to cut down on the actual amount due government whilst physical smuggling, according to him, is when traders or importers use illegal routes to evade tax.

“What obtained before now was that importers and traders were under-taxed by tax collectors,”  said Dr. Jibao, noting further that under the former administration collectors  and traders negotiate tax on  percentage which goes into the pockets of individuals at the expense of the state. “This is what we have put an end to and we are now demanding that the actual tax be paid directly,” he insisted.