7 February 2012

Gambia: Tax Commission Toughens Stance On GRA Top Brass, Others

The commissioner general of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), Bakary Sanyang; the commissioner of Domestic Tax, Musukebba Corr; deputy commissioners of Domestic Tax, Mamoud Joof and Louie Gillen, yesterday, Monday 6th February 2012 appeared before the Tax Commission, chaired by Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh, at the High Court complex in Banjul, to shed light on certain information requested by the said Commission.

The four senior GRA officials took turns to explain their functions regarding the request made by the Commission.

Bakary Sanyang told the Commission that he had the 28 files requested by the Commission. After counting the files, state counsel Binga D disclosed that there were only 24 files and Justice Singhateh disclosed that five assessments had previously been submitted to the Commission. Sanyang then produced 28 copies of assessments in respect of the 28 names (files) that he was asked to produce before the Commission, and said the commissioner of Domestic Tax was in charge of those files and she should be able to explain.

At that juncture, the commissioner of Domestic Tax, Musukebba Corr mounted the witness box and when asked why the list of files were incomplete, Corr asserted that some of the files previously requested by the Commission were not returned to the GRA. At that point, the secretary to the Commission, Amie Jarra was asked who sent the files to the GRA, and she disclosed that 28 files were sent to the GRA by one investigator and the process server, Gibba. Corr revealed that when the files were sent to the GRA, they were assessed, and that the GRA usually keeps records for the assessment of taxpayers.

Justice Singhateh told Corr that the files were delivered to one Momodou Lamin Gibba at GRA and reminded her that a letter, dated 11th January 2012 sent to the GRA requested that the GRA provide re-assessment of thelist 28 of names. She asked Corr when she received the said letter, Corr revealed that the letter was minuted to her by the commissioner general, Bakary Sanyang, on the 12th January 2012, but it did not come to her attention that all the files were sent to her, until the 4th February 2012. She said they started working on the files within a week upon the receipt of the said letter from the Commission with the list of names attached. Corr told the Commission that she sought assistance from one of the commissioners, John Gomez.

At that point, Justice Singhateh queried about her not communicating the Commission when they had difficulties in sorting out. Corr named members of the team who worked on the files as Ramatoulie Hydara, Ya Marie Sorr, Abdoulie Gaye, Mariama Jobe, Nfamara Drammeh, Borry Darboe, Lamin Sonko, Khaddy Barrow, Lamin Sanyang and Aisatou Bobb, and they were supervised by herself and two of her deputies, Mamoud Joof and Louie Gillen. When asked why it took her all this period, 12th January 2012 and 4th February 2012 to work on the files, Corr explained that she wanted to provide accurate information regarding the files.

Mamoud Joof, deputy commissioner of Domestic Tax department took to the box and informed the Commission that her boss, Corr minuted the letter to him with the list of names. Joof told the Commission that he authorized one Malamin Jatta to receive the files from the secretary of his boss, Corr. He said after the receipt of the files, he instructed one Aisatou Bobb to start working on the files. Joof revealed that as they started working on the files, they had difficulty in tracing some information regarding the method they were going to use in assessing the files. "The commissioner of Domestic Tax, Musukebba Corr then set up a team and he gave technical assistance to the team whenever it was necessary," he added.

Joof asserted that the team was initially made up of three, but later expanded, adding that one team was at the Banjul office whilst the other was at Kanifing. He said the first team set up in Banjul included Aisatou Bobb, Mahaad Ceesay and Aisatou Manneh and the second team was set up either on the 31st January 2012 or on the 1st February 2012.

Deputy commissioner of Domestic Tax, Louie Gillen however told the Commission that his role during the process was to supervise the team regarding: incomedeclared, assessment, amount paid and outstanding amount by the list of names sent by the Commission to the GRA and to further look at the penalty and interest. Gillen stated that the exercise started around the 27th January 2012, and that many GRA officers were involved in the exercise. He revealed that at the time they were wrapping, he was informed that one of the files was missing. Gillen explained that he never did any assessment but assigned the tax clerks and officials from the enforcement unit to conduct the work.

Musukebba Corr, commissioner of Domestic Tax, reappeared in the afternoon session of the Commission and highlighted that one of the names in the list made payment to the GRA after he had appeared before the Commission. She however pleaded with the Commission to do a recount and re-check of the files presented before the Commission.

After a recount, which took almost half an hour, Justice Singhateh revealed that the staff of the Commission would have to swear to an affidavit that the Commission sent 28 files to GRA.

Meanwhile, Corr in her evidence said the Domestic Tax department is computerized regarding registration, processing of data and payments, and that the domestic tax department has the Gamtax net system. She however informed that the system recently had a problem but it has been regularized. At that point, the commissioner general, Bakary Sanyang, was recalled and he produced copies of information on payment of taxes from 1st November 2011 to date.

After a careful perusal, Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh explained that the Commission was interested in taxes paid in arrears after the commencement of the Commission, i.e. list of some companies, accountants, engineers, architects, lawyers, medical practitioners, businesses who had arrears far back 2008 but paid after November 1st 2011. The Commission's chairperson ordered that the commissioner general appear before the Commission on the 8th February 2012, and that he should always come along with the commissioner of Domestic Tax, Musukebba Corr.

Meanwhile, other witnesses who appeared before the Commission yesterday included Lai Mboge, the proprietor and managing director of Badala Park Hotel; Khingi Vindoria of Swami India International Limited established in 2004; Manhal Oueidat, managing director of Euro Africa Group Limited, a company established in 2004 and a company involved in the import of fuel on behalf of the Gambia government; Amadou Gigo, the managing director of Gigo Construction Limited, who was ordered to go to GRA and settle sales tax liabilities from 2004 to 2006, 2008 to 2011 and to return to the Commission with evidence of payment of the said sales tax for the period and also evidence of payment of withholding tax for 2004 to 2010; Muhammed Nagaty, the area manager of M.A Kharafi and Sons Company (Gambia) Limited, who produced evidence of payee tax in respect of project executed by the company for the period under review, i.e. the Banjul International Airport, Mandinaba - Soma highway, Lamin Koto - Farafenni highway; Simon Abraham, the managing director of Netpage; Muhammed Jah of QuantumNet; Papa Yusupah Njie of the Unique Solutions; Jainaba Gaye of Dalaba Residence; Buba Touray, the accountant of Kombo Beach Hotel and; Amadou Sowe of Diamond Properties, who was ordered by the Commission to produce and submit the list of 40 properties sold by the said real estate agency, names of the owners, buyers and locations of the properties and the amount involved and certificate of incorporation of the company.

Commission continues sitting tomorrow.

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