26 March 2014

Liberia: Amara Accepts Blame On Budget

Liberia's Finance Minister Amara Konneh has accepted blame here for a continuous shortfall in the national budget.

"I'm responsible for the budget shortfall in Liberia because I'm the custodian of the people's money, and when anything happens to it, I should be held responsible because I'm the minister," Konneh told a press conference Tuesday at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism.

He said adjustments made by the Legislature on the original draft budget also increased targets unrealistically, and in other cases, poor infrastructure, bureaucracy and bottlenecks in the Executive branch hindered the timely realization of the amount projected.

The Finance boss noted that with all of those problems one cannot blame anyone else for the shortfall, but him. According to him, in the face of the shortfalls, the Ministry of Finance has put in place stringent technical, administrative and legal measures to recover tax revenue for the remainder of the fiscal period.

"We have set a revenue mobilization task force; we have increased our tax awareness; we have reorganized our tax administration personnel to ensure the most effective distribution on talent and responsibility in order to meet our revenue targets going forward; we have identified and met with delinquent taxpayers to give them time to settle their obligations to the government and we are working with the Ministry of Justice and the Board of Tax appeals to prepare litigation against those who fail to pay their taxes," he stressed.

The Minister added that these are short term measures intended to improve revenue collection. He noted that the ministry will start a spot verification of taxpayers to validate payments, adding that with this action, the government expects improvement in the collection of taxes on income, goods and services.

Minister Konneh disclosed that crack down on delinquent taxpayers, including publishing the list of persons, businesses and public institutions with outstanding tax obligations and initiating legal proceedings to recover taxes are all part of the unforgiving measure that will be taken by government against tax invaders, adding that with such tough measures by government, revenue generation looks promising for the remainder of the fiscal year.

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