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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

NRAís Modernization Plan in Perspective
By Pa John Baimba Sesay
Nov 6, 2009, 17:02
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The NRA has also continued to move in the right direction, especially in meeting its mandate. As part of its mandate to generate revenue, it has generated hundreds of billions of Leones in the first quarter of 2009.

Also, the modernization plan of the Authority is making progress. The Introduction of the GST in January 2010 and the pending ASYCUDA are just two instances where the modernization plan is making headway. At present the Modernization Project Team in Sierra Leone is working assiduously to meet what is contained in the Modernization Plan

The Team Leader for the Modernization Support Project recently stated that they are, together with the NRA well prepared in terms of making the modernization project work and that when there is complete success on programmes like ASYCUDA, and the Goods and Services Tax, Ďwe should celebrate that successÖí

Dr Charlie Jenkins made this statement when reached by this writer at his office in central Freetown to talk on the Modernization Plan of the NRA and what government stands to benefit from it. The NRA, created by an act of parliament to, among other functions;- facilitate trade and generate revenue for the smooth running of government, in 2007 drew up a Modernization Plan which was aimed at ensuring that the institution becomes am outstanding means to secure state revenue.

Sierra Leoneís budgetary support has often been donor driven with about 40 percent coming from external donors, with the remaining 60%generated locally. The NRA has been playing a pivotal role in this direction.

In July this year, Crown Agents wrote in its website that ĎCrown Agent will work with NRA and other key stakeholders to implement the Integrated Revenue Management Programme: this focuses on Customs Modernization, Administrative Reform of Domestic Taxes, and Implementation of a Goods and Services Tax (GST). These involve a review of laws, procedures and structures to bring them in line with international best practice and to improve NRAís revenue collection statistics. This component will involve capacity building in the Large Taxpayer Office (LTO),improving taxpayer audit and compliance management, and assisting in the establishment of a new Domestic Taxes Department that will merge GST and Direct Tax operationsí.

It is also working with the NRA on the Human Resource and Institutional Development Programme, Taxpayer Information and Education Programme and on the Consolidation of the Strategic Management Programme. Dr Charlie Jenkins was the Lesotho Revenue Authority Commissioner-General and he is in Sierra Leone on a three year contract with Crown Agents to support the NRAís Modernization Project. He has vast experience on

Taxation issues.

Part of the NRAís Modernization Project includes the ASYCUDA project and the Goods and Services Tax. ASYCUDA, an acronym meaning Automated System for Customs Data is a computer software package that is used by Customs Administrations in many countries, in processing documents which relate to export and importation of goods. It practically ensures fast clearance of goods, and at the same time accounting for revenue collected and compilation of trade statistics. The ASYCUDA project is expected to cover areas like the Freetown Port, Lungi International Airport and the main border offices in Gendema in the Pujehun district and Gbalamuya in the Kambia district.

Also, the Goods and Service Tax is set to be introduced in 2010 and will replace seven existing taxes in the country. The law establishing GST has already been enacted by Parliament. The President has given his assent to it. Public education and the registration of business houses for GST are currently taking place. When GST starts in 2010 and ASYCUDA is introduced, this will be seen as a major success story for the NRA, adding to the fact that it has, during the first quarter of this year, collected revenue exceeding its target.

Speaking recently on the successes of the NRAís Modernization Project, Dr Jenkins stated that the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, slated for January in 2010 and the pending Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) could be used as major pointers to the success of the modernization project when they start operations. He said, before now, there was no law on GST and that taxpayers were not aware about what GST is all about. The NRA, he said is well prepared to start GST by January 2010 to help increase the revenue generation drive for government.

On the revenue generation drive by the NRA, Dr Jenkins said, the NRA has been successful in this direction, but that the Authority should strive to go beyond reaching its revenue targets, and also focus on issues such as the level and quality of services rendered to taxpayers. "One challenge of the modernization project goes beyond meeting the target in revenue mobilizationÖí The NRA, with reference to Customs he said is also about facilitating trade, and providing first line protection in terms of national and societal security. The NRA in Sierra Leone, he said, has challenges to go though just as was the case with the Lesotho Revenue Authority.

On expectations by Sierra Leoneans from the NRAís Modernization Project, he said that in the next couple of years, through the NRA, Sierra Leoneans will have much more information about the National Revenue Authority and what is involved in the modernization project. He also said that the Modernization Project will continue to support the Authority in defining innovative approaches to enhancing revenue collection through educating the Taxpayer base and raising the level of voluntary compliance.


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