Saturday, March 24, 2012

Revenue Authorities Told To Embrace West African Tax Administration

The West  African Tax  Administrartion forum (WATAF) is part of the  African Tax  Administration forum which was formally launched in Uganda on 16 November 2006 to enable  African  Tax Administrators assist each other to build capacity, share best practices, as well as exchange relevant information in order to strengthen the mobilisation of domestic revenue and significantly minimize the sub-region’s  dependency on external budgetary support to fund the governments’ development programmes, were the words of  Mr. Mambury  Njie, Minister of  Finance and Economic Affairs  at the Third meeting of the West  African Tax  Administrations Forum.
Hosted by The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) on March 12, 2012 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel and was attended by delegates from ECOWAS, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South  Africa as well as local GRA Staff in Banjul.

Deputy Permanent  Secretary  Mr. Mod K. Ceesay at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs  read a prepared paper by the Minister.
According to the Permanent Secretary,  the forum hosted by GRA is an historic movement as it is the first time GRA is hosting such an eminent group of experts to discuss important common tax issues of the sub-region.
“We are all aware that tax has been found to be the most dependable and sustainable source of financing government projects and programmes which will greatly impact the quality of living conditions of our populations,” he said.
PS Ceesay noted that to elucidate this point, it is worthy to mention that even for countries within the region that are endowed with huge deposits of natural resources will likely experience the depletion of such resources sooner rather than later which therefore suggest the strengthening of “our tax institutions”.
He reminded the forum that it is also critical that participants at the forum consider venturing into the area of capacity building for the various administrations across the region for greater output.
The meeting, PS Ceesay said, is happening at a time when GRA is challenged with not only urgent issues of reforms to increase tax compliance and broaden the tax base but also to successfully introduce the much anticipated VAT (Value Added Tax) in January 2013.
For us-The Gambia, he said the holding of this meeting could not have come at a better time and we are look forward to a successful and rewarding session.” 
He added: “It is because of the high expectation of learning from each other and sharing our best practices in revenue administration that The Gambia continues to be an active member of all  International Organisation.”
He therefore called on other revenue administrations within the sub-region to embrace the third meeting of the West African tax forum, saying that the forum will enable member countries to harmonize domestic tax issues with the ECOWAS protocols and objectives  relating to international trade. 
He also commended the tremendous efforts and commitment of the Federal  Inland Revenue Services of Nigeria for spearheading the formation of the their meeting of the West  African tax administrations forum in Banjul and also for putting so much resources to ensure the success of the forum.    
In conclusion, PS Ceesay expressed sincere gratitude to the government of The Gambia for what he said its  continued  support and creation of the enabling environment for the growing success of GRA.
For his part, Mr. Bakary Sanyang, Commissioner General GRA, said the aim of the organisation spearheaded by Nigeria, is to encourage cooperation and mutual assistance in all tax related matters.
“This forum I have no doubt in my mind, is timely given that the West African sub-region still does not have a specialized organisation of this nature to provide the much needed experience sharing and capacity boost to all our tax administrations,”added  the GRA boss.
Mr.Sanyang pointed out that these efforts will certainly gain the support of The Gambia, adding that “we (The Gambia) are very pleased to be associated with this initiative right from the beginning.”
GRA Boss stated that as head of GRA, he was encouraged by the high level representation by ECOWAS which he said signifies the importance the sub-regional body- ECOWAS attaches to the improvement of the tax administration systems of its  Member States for a better fiscal dispensation, promotion of trade and sustainable development.
The government of The Gambia, GRA’s Sanyang said has realized the inextricable link between taxation and development resulting to the introduction of a series of tax reforms since ten years back.
These tax reforms, he said led to the creation of GRA, pointing out that GRA is the main revenue collecting agencies of domestic taxes and customs  under one roof. He informed them that the Gambian tax administration has been greatly transformed to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century by adopting a sound modernization program that is institution, people and systems centered.
Considering the fact that The Gambia is not endowed with natural resources, the mobilization of domestic resources to finance development programs and projects will to a large extend depend on a sound and capable tax administration, he explained.
Currently, “we are embarking on a major tax reform aiming at the introduction of VAT to replace the existing sales tax at the beginning of 2013, we hope to benefit a lot from your experiences in the implementation of VAT.”
He appealed to ECOWAS  to support member states including The Gambia’s  GRA to achieve its objectives. 
WATAF Interim Chairman, Mr. Onye Kachi, and ECOWAS Representative Salfou Tremtore all spoke at the forum; while Mr. Ousman Bah, Head of Corporate and Public Affairs, GRA chaired the opening ceremony. 

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