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NRA, key to government’s Agenda for Change

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Samura Kamara, stated that a key objective of the government’s agenda for change is to intensify domestic revenue mobilization and that government will, in this direction continue to step up efforts aimed at broadening the tax base while also strengthening tax administration and collection.  He said, government will focus on closing the loop holes that provide opportunities for revenue leakages and that in particular, the NRA will, among other things accelerate the establishment of the domestic tax department and enforce the provisions in the existing tax laws with an aim to eliminate tax evasion.

Allieu Sesay, major player in the President Koroma's Agenda for Change

Allieu Sesay, major player in the President Koroma's Agenda for Change

President Koroma came to political prominence following his agenda for change campaign he initiated prior to the 2007 elections. Recently addressing newsmen at State House, the President stated that his government was out there ‘to present the agenda for change and to seek support…’ and was therefore happy that ‘the efforts we have made, the strides we have taken, have been accepted, not out of sympathy but because our tremendous commitment and determination to make a difference…’  In meeting the Agenda for Change, state institutions like the NRA among others are relevant, especially when the key objective of the government’s agenda for change is to intensify domestic revenue mobilization.

Samura Kamara spoke recently in Parliament, when delivering the government budget and statement of economic and financial policies for the financial year 2010 According to Dr. Samura Kamara, ‘…significant progress has been made in modernizing the operations of the National Revenue Authority, including the installation of the ASYCUDA++ software’. This software, he explained will benefit the national economy by increasing revenue collection; providing information on trade, among others.

Speaking on import duty for imported cement, the Minister disclosed that it was temporarily reduced from 20% to 10% in 2006 ‘when the domestic manufacturing industry was expanding its capacity and therefore could not produce enough to meet the local demand at the time…’ However, he said, with government’s aim to support local industries and promote job creation, the import duty on imported cement has been restored to its original rate of 20%. The rate on imported magi has also been increased from 5 to 20 percent and this is done ‘… to create a level playing field for both importers and domestic manufacturers…’, Samura Kamara said and also spoke  that these changes are also reflected in the Finance Act 2010.

On revenue projection for the Financial Year 2010, Samura Kamara said total revenue, including external grants, for the financial year 2010, is projected at Le1.41 trillion and that of this amount, domestic revenue is projected at Le 844.1billion and grants at Le567.5billion. The income taxes, he said, are expected to amount to Le240.5billion, customs and excise duties are projected at Le477.7 and the new GST is projected to contribute minimally 0.1%of the Gross Domestic Product.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner for Customs and Excise, under the National Revenue Authority, Abu Bakarr Finnoh has expressed that the introduction of the Automated System for Customs Data is a move towards simplifying the operations of the Customs department. He also stated that since the test phase of the process commenced on the 1st of December 2009, there has been encouraging developments, coupled with the appreciation of importers for the ASYCUDAA introduction and that there has been great progress in the process since the test phase was commenced.

ASYCUDA, which is an acronym, for 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 import of goods. It ensures fast clearance of goods, and also accounts for revenue collected and compilation of trade statistics. The introduction of the ASYCUDA systems of customs operations is aimed at enhancing service delivery to importers in Sierra Leone .It is also aimed at improving on the revenue collection drive as well as personnel administration. 

The project was started in the early 1990s and has only come to realization this year, with the test phase started on the 1st of this month. The 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.  Speaking to this writer recently, Abu Bakarr Finnoh narrated that, ‘essentially, we (NRA) are engaged in the test phase which started since 1st December this year…’  He disclosed that they have ensured training of staff and the availability of equipment for the programme. ‘…We are currently imputing manifest declaration…’ he disclosed

On the public’s reaction to the test phase of ASYCUDA, Commissioner Finnoh said, the people, especially importers appreciate the decision to introduce ASUYCUDA in our operations. ‘….This is clear in a recent stakeholders meeting we had with importers at the Bank Complex…’ Finnoh said.

As part of the process, in May this year, the ASYCUDA Project Team undertook overview training for over three hundred participants, including 191 Customs Staff, 158 Customs Brokers and 28 Customs and Excise Department/NRA Senior Managers. The training itself was climaxed with an exams organized for Operational Customs Staff at the Bishop Johnson Memorial School. The NRA has completed the configuration and codification of the procedures, and that they have also ‘installed the production services, the Training/Development server, the Web Server and Back-Up Server.’

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