By Joseph S. Margai in Beijing
Tuma Adama Jabbi is NRA's Board of Directors' Chairperson
The Chairperson, Board of Directors of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), Ms. Tuma Adama Jabbi, has told this medium that she was determined to close loopholes in order to mobilise much-needed revenue for national development.
Tuma, a lecturer at the Department of Law, Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone (USL), who lectures a module in Tax and Revenue Law, was speaking in an exclusive interview Monday, 10th September, in Beijing.
She noted that Sierra Leoneans want the country to be financially independent and that as a member of the 'New Direction' under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio, it's high time that Sierra Leone develops her own development path beyond aid.
"It's about time we stand up and raise the needed revenue for the transformation of Sierra Leone. We might not be able to do it in a day but we have to start somewhere. We will try to close the loopholes, implement policies that actually work, concentrate on our tax education, encourage our workers by putting them in conducive environment, and by doing so, I'm sure that the revenue that is expected from Sierra Leone will be generated for the benefit of all," she said.
Ms. Jabbi noted that since the 'New Direction' administration was ushered into power the Commissioner-General and his entire team at NRA have been doing a great job, adding that what remains now is motivating them and making sure that they are aware of the laws and policies and for the agency to ramp up tax education.
"All of the taxes NRA collects are for the people of Sierra Leone," the NRA board chair said.
Quizzed about her take on the perception of some Sierra Leoneans that NRA sets its own target without consulting the people, the barrister and lecturer of tax and revenue law said NRA is under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, adding that before the ministry sets targets, it goes to parliament for approval and once approved, NRA works toward meeting the target.
However, she said the current NRA target was set by the previous government.
"Frankly, NRA is on the best path now as we speak. All President Bio is interested in is to make sure that his legacy that stays behind is to build Sierra Leone again. He wants to make Sierra Leone great again and make the people of this country to be proud wherever they go, to say that it's a country that can generate its own funds and look after itself," she stated.
She averred that what President Bio has done was to appoint the best of the best in leadership positions to work with him, noting that he's got her as the board chair and a tax expert, Dr. Jibao, as the Commissioner-General, and the outcome has been massive revenue mobilisation and generation.
"All what NRA has achieved so far is not about H.E. Bio or the board chair and the entire staff, but it's about the people of Sierra Leone. President Bio's strategy of transforming Sierra Leone is all about inclusiveness. Whoever does not want to get onboard the train of development will be left behind because the train is about to depart for the land of success," she said.
Most countries that have developed in the world have heavily relied on taxation, and when asked what Sierra Leoneans must learn from this, she noted that taxes must be paid, as it's the case all over the world, for positive transformation.
"Some people might say that they are not exactly sure about the taxes that they pay but the reality is that we have a new government that is different from others in terms of financial transparency and accountability. We are going to embark on a tax education so as to make the public know what the benefits to pay taxes are. Every tax paid, the money will come back into the country to develop it," she said.
The NRA board chairperson remarked that Sierra Leoneans want electricity and water supply, good healthcare, quality education, infrastructure, among other social amenities, stating that all these developments could only be actualised from the taxes people pay in the country.
Thus, she encouraged all Sierra Leoneans to pay their taxes.
"I have heard grumblings from people that since the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) took over office the customs duties have been inflated, and that's a blatant lie. They remain the same. The only difference is that we have put drastic measures in place, thereby minimising the loopholes. Nothing has increased," she emphasised.
Tuma Adama Jabbi, who was born in the United Kingdom (UK), attended the St. Joseph's Convent Secondary School in Freetown but sat to her 'A Level' in the UK at Greenwich Community College.
She did her undergraduate degree in law at De Montfort University in Leicester City and a Master's degree in Corporate and Business Law at the University of Central England in Birmingham.
She worked as a UK civil servant for four years in the Department for Works and Pensions before deciding to come to Sierra Leone to contribute to national development.