By Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally
President Julius Maada Bio’s government kept the affairs of state running with two executive orders. The first order on April 9th, 2018, focusing on Domestic Revenue Mobilization covers a broad spectrum of taxes and duty waivers. It was aimed at reigning on leakages in revenue mobilization and administration of government. Then came a second order, April 25th, 2018 targeting Expenditure Management and Controls covering the cleaning of the wage bill, ban on the purchase and maintenance of government vehicles, payment for mobile phone top-ups, fuel and internet services at homes of public officials, rationalizing of official travels to name a few.
Now to what extent the Bio administration has gone with implementation of such orders and how much the actions taken would impact the citizenry, have been the breathtaking questions.
Executive Order number one on duty and tax waiver suspended various layers of tax duty and tax waivers on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs,) Donor and Government funded projects, agreements ratified by parliament as well as Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs) related contracts until the entire duty waiver policy is reviewed. The suspension exempts agencies, organizations and Foreign Missions under the relevant Vienna Convention.
The Ministry of Finance opened an Escrow Account at the Bank of Sierra Leone in which all affected agencies are required to pay in the duty and taxes which funds are to be returned when each review is completed. Current figures of deposits, according to the Ministry of Finance, stand at 7 billion in the account.
The Executive Order also directed that all MDAs collecting and retaining government revenues to transfer such into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF); following the Accountant General’s immediate action of closing these agencies’ accounts held in various commercial banks in country and transferred balances into the CRF at the Bank of Sierra Leone. These include Petroleum Regulatory Agency, Petroleum Directorate, Roads Maintenance Fund Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
This way the government was able to transfer a paltry Le, 65.21 billion into the CRF from April 9 to April 30, 2018. The Ministry of Finance informs that it is reviewing budgets of these agencies to determine their monthly operational cash requirement, rationalise expenditures and transfer excess funds to the CRF, consistent with the PMF Act 2016 and Fiscal Management and Control Act 2017.
Report indicates that in the course of putting to bed the Treasury Single Account with the named agencies earlier, the Ministry of Finance discovered other agencies, which include the Pharmacy Board of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Insurance Commission, Audit Service Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Police and various other MDAs, which also do collect and retain revenues.
Sources at finance say Government has reigned in those accounts to become part of the TSA but their inclusion, the source maintains, will not undermine access to funds for their operational requirements.
Reports indicate that the Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company SIERRATEL and Sierra Leone Cable Company (SALCAB) owed government taxes and debt service refunds. To bring them to a negotiating table, their accounts were garnisheed until the issues were resolved. The assessment showed that SIERRATEL owed government SLL 2.2 billion in taxes and debt service refunds of US$13.8 million. SALCAB on the other-hand owed government SLL11.7 billion in taxes and US$ 3.5 million in debt service.
According to the Ministry of Finance, Sierratel has agreed to comply with paying its full tax liability amount, Wednesday May 2, 2018 and US$ 100,000 monthly debt service refunds. The same source reported that SALCAB has paid SLL 13.0 billion in respect of debt service payment refunds. The Ministry of Finance say they are reconciling cross liability position between government and internet service providers payment arrears owed by MDAs to the company.
Payment by Oil Marketing Companies
Prior to the Executive Order No.1 Oil Marketing Companies were paying excise taxes and duties in arrears of two months or more. Led to difficulties to reconcile the payments due and actual payments made. Consistent with the law, Customs and Excise Department would now only release petroleum products if Oil marketing Companies pay: 100 percent excise taxes before uplift of product from the oil deposits; 50 percent of import duty before uplift; remaining 50 percent within 7 days after uplift, failing which the full force of the law will apply. Source Ministry of Finance
National Revenue Authority Transit Accounts held at commercial banks
Prior to the Executive Order, Tax payers pay taxes due into NRA transit accounts. However, there were significant delays in the transfer of funds into the Consolidated Revenue Fund at the Bank of Sierra Leone, resulting to difficulties in reconciling revenue collection reported by NRA and cash receipt at the Bank of Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Finance has addressed this difficulty by converting the NRA Transit Accounts into sub-Treasury Account out of which payments are swept and transferred into the Consolidated Revenue Account on a daily basis. Source Ministry of Finance
The executive Order banning timber exports remains in force. Government will establish a committee, including membership of civil society representative(s). Unprocessed certificates for infrastructure projects held at the Ministry of Finance amounted to USSL 412.5 billion (as at 3oth April 2018). Source Ministry of Finance
Revenue collection in April 2018 –total revenue collected in the month of April stands at SLL 306 billion of this amount SLL 239.34 billion was collected for the period 11-30th April after the issuance of the Executive Order No.1 and SLL 67.0 billion from 1-10 April 2018. January to March, 2018 revenue averages around SLL 260 billion and accumulated domestic borrowing of SLL 300 billion. Total revenue transferred by agencies into the CRF is SLL 65.0 billion.
2018 April Payment of wages and salaries and arrears Clearance to statutory institutions –the enhanced revenue measures allowed government to make timely payment of wages and salaries for the month of April and Cleared Arrears owed to Tertiary institutions and other critical agencies these include –wages and salaries of MDAs and Foreign Missions amounting to SLL 150.0 billion; Clearance outstanding cheques at BSL for Universities and other tertiary institutions of SLL 20.5 billions
Anti-Corruption SLL 2.0 billion
NRA SLL 5.6 billion
Audit Service SLL 2.7 billion
EDSA and EGTC of SLL 17 billion
NASSIT contribution payment, SLL 16.9 billion
As at 31 March 2018, total NASSIT contribution arrears amounted SLL 221 billion owed the government. Government took commitment to pay the Security Sector SLL 9.7 billion for urgent activities
Pay SLL 2.1 billion for NPSE Examination fees;
50% payments to former MPs of SLL 8.8 billion;
Milton Margai College of Education of SLL1.2 billion
An additional payment to ACC of SLL 1.6 billion and FBC SLL 3.0 billion
Domestic arrears as at 30th, March 2018
Cheques paid with AGD SLL 103,087,336,532.75
Cheques with the Bank of Sierra Leone SLL 1,047,666,043,258.00
Total SLL 1, 150,753,379,790.75