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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

What Has Changed at the National Revenue Authority?
By Pelito Bangs
Jan 29, 2009, 17:14
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Indeed, the manifestation of changes whether positive or otherwise connotes    a semblance of growth and developments. About this same            time last year,   the struggle for the enviable position of Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) was dramatically put to an end, with the pronouncement of Allieu Sesay as the victorious contender for the hot seat. He was branded an outsider and at least the insiders were somehow satisfied that they all lost and a man from nowhere took the lead. These were the very days when the general public branded the collection of revenue by the NRA as free for all and officers found it a game of fun to do what they considered right.


President Koroma faced a very serious lashing for appointing Allieu Sesay as Commissioner General. Even some of his best of friends had preferred some of the folks that belonged to the old school and who certainly would have been au fait with what obtains at the Authority.


In the wisdom of His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Allieu Sesay was the most competent for this job, and was allowed to graciously occupy the hot seat of Commissioner General. Even before he fully took over the administration of the Authoriy, he encountered his first opposition with his decision to appoint Mohamed S. Bamba, the Commissioner for Customs and Excise Department, as Acting Commissioner General whilst he packed out of his other engagements in Ghana. I could still remember how Ousman Barrie, the then Deputy Commissioner General wrote letters to several stakeholders, including the press and made mountains out of the entire issue. Subsequently, for reasons I do not know, he took his exit from the NRA. His position is vacant to date.


This was how Commissioner General Allieu Sesay was ushered into the NRA family. He was impliedly without any principal advisory officer; I mean a deputy to help him administer the NRA. He was now on his own, with the mandate to collect the much needed revenue to meet the expenditure patterns of the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.


With what many referred to as a daunting task, Allieu Sesay commenced his administration with a revenue target he inherited at the beginning of the first quarter that was not set for him. This was indeed a very serious challenge. With the combination of prudence and efficiency, Allieu Sesay made it his responsibility to build a formidable team that would help him perform his task.


Team work was his leadership style. He however brought on board some old guys that had left the service for some reasons and blended their expertise with some new but highly competent and professional guys to maintain the balance in performance.


Certainly Commissioner General Allieu Sesay introduced a retreat for the Board of Directors and Senior Management of the National Revenue Authority to enable the duo to plan adequately for the fiscal year 2008. The outcome of the retreat impacted on the administrative and leadership style of his administration.


Of course, Allieu Sesay ensured that officers of the Authority, who had attained specific educational heights, were upgraded in terms of position and salaries. Even the ridiculous allowances for traveling, housing and medical were significantly improved by Commissioner General Sesay. He also ensured that opportunities for staff educational developments were provided during his first year in office. Records show that more than two hundred staff have benefited from trainings and study tours at home and abroad, and he has demonstrated his willingness to collaborate with educational institutions at home and abroad to provide trainings and other educational needs for staff of the Authority.


From what obtains and as a way of enhancing his revenue collection drive, Commissioner General Sesay has pledged his sincere support to the holistic modernization of the National Revenue Authority. Upon assuming office, he did not only recognize the desperate need for a computerized system but committed his administration to the automation of the procedures and practices within the NRA. Perhaps it was as a result of his enthusiasm that DFID-UK approved a funding of 16.4 million British Pounds Sterling in April 2008, to support the work of the National Revenue Authority.


As part of the modernization drive, the public must have been in the known that under the leadership of Allieu Sesay, taxpayers in Sierra Leone now have a unique taxpayer identification numbers (TIN). There is also the ongoing automation of the Customs processes and procedures as revealed by Commissioner General Allieu Sesay in a recently held press briefing. In the nearest future, Customs would be operated on a computer soft ware called the ASYCUDA++. This would reduce the physical contact between importers and officers within the NRA. It is expected that this new system would reduce the hours of clearing consignment at Customs and increase productivity in revenue generation.


Under the administration of Commissioner General Allieu Sesay, the Income Tax Department has for the very first time, since its inception, met and exceeded its target. This is unprecedented and must be added as a feather on the hat of Commission General Allieu Sesay. The trend in revenue collection is clearly showing an increase in the collection of domestic taxes as opposed to customs duties. If the trend is to continue then Allieu Sesay would steadily be on top of the situation.


Unlike in the past where the public was out rightly ignorant about the operations of the National Revenue Authority, Commissioner General Allieu Sesay has made it his first priority to reach out to the public. Since his appointment to that office, he has made several official public appearances and speeches. Commissioner General Allieu Sesay is currently working with consultants of the World Bank to develop a communications strategy and revive the Public Affairs and Tax Education Department of the NRA, which was dismantled by the former administration. This has been a particular area that has led to low collection of revenue. Taxpayers are mostly not aware of their tax obligations.


To crown it all, the revenue collection for all the departments in 2008 under the administration of Commissioner General Allieu Sesay far outweighs that which was collected in 2007. For Income Tax Department, about Le 145, 730 billions was collected in 2007 whilst Le 198, 849 billions collected in 2008. Customs collected Le 308, 441 billions in 2007 whilst Le 362, 118 was collected in 2008 and for Non Tax Revenue about Le48, 015 was collected in 2007 whilst Le 57, 154 was collected in 2008.


The revenue figures show clearly that amidst the world economic crisis and credit crunch in 2008, the administration of Commissioner General Allieu Sesay was able to do better than the previous administration for his first year. It is safe to conclude that everything is changing for the better at the National Revenue Authority.


Mr. President you were correct in choosing Mr. Allieu Sesay to run the affairs of the NRA. Bravo to you CG!


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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