AYV: Your name and designation sir?
DR.JIBAO SAMUEL JIBAO: I am Dr. Samuel Jibao. I am the Commissioner General for National Revenue Authority (NRA).
AYV: It is understood that you clocked one year in office on June 6. What state did you meet the NRA and how have you fared since your assumption of office?
DR.JIBAO: Thank you very much. Yesterday (Thursday 6th June, 2019) officially was my one year in office. On that note I want to thank God for His help and protection throughout and on behalf of my family, wife and children, I want to thank His Excellency the President for his trust. This seat is quite enviable but it was quite a trust for the president to handover such a big task to me. But like I said in my interview with him; I would not disappoint him and I would not disappoint the people of Sierra Leone. I met NRA in a state that I can describe as very challenging. Challenging in terms of even the financial position was not good. In the handing over which I got, it came out clearly that NRA even owed suppliers over eight billion Leones (Le8B) and the other one has to do with staffing. We had a lot of vacant positions at the senior management level; there was no Deputy Commissioner General and in terms of even the morale of the staff, it was so low when I came onboard. So that’s the state in which I actually inherited this organization. In terms of integrity, I really met a situation where the perception about the organization in terms of integrity was really very low. That’s the kind of NRA we actually inherited.
AYV: So briefly, what is the current status of the NRA with regard revenue collection?
DR. JIBAO: Thank you very much. What have we done over this one year? We have done a lot. The first thing is that when the Board was constituted (by the way we have a very dynamic Board), headed by a very eloquent and hardworking Chair in the person of Madam Tuma Adama Jabbie. We had the discussion on how to fill these positions and we were able to fill all the senior management positions including that of the Deputy Commissioner General who incidentally is also a very hardworking and very strong lady. So I can say in terms of the governance we’ve now got almost the full complement when it comes to the senior management and we are almost close to getting the full complement for our middle management level. We have also hired more technical staff. So we are on track on that. And in terms of revenue; it is now relatively predictable. We can relatively predict our weekly revenue, that’s one thing we have achieved. In terms of the numbers – revenue has really jumped. If we compare 2019 first quarter to 2018 first quarter, all categories – revenue overall increased by 51% and so far from January to May 2019, we have actually generated about Le2.20 trillion which is quite high when you compare to the whole of the first half of last year 2018 when we collected less than that – about two hundred and sixteen billion Leones less. We still have one month to go but yet we have collected more than the whole of 2018 first half. So that shows how in fact, the revenue is doing well. In terms of growth, I can say in 2018 when we came, revenue grew by 35% that is higher than inflation because some people say prices are going up but that has nothing to do with that. Inflation was about 70% now we are talking about revenue growth about 35%. So even if you take the inflation out, the revenue is still growing. Even in terms of the GDP, revenue grew by 1.5% which is really very impressive performance by any international standard. So far in terms of revenue generation it is now predictable like I said. We predict on weekly basis and if I tell you that next week I will get over hundred billion, I know I will get it. Why – because we have been able to at least seal blocks of leakages and we have gotten to understand our taxpayer base more realistically. That is it.
AYV: People might want to know the mechanisms or administrative policies you put in place that are different from that of former administrations which led to this huge success as you say.
DR. JIBAO: The first thing has to do with the governance. With the help of the Board we now have a more robust governance structure and by not only filling the vacant positions, but filling the positions with competent people and very determined people. In addition to that our Board also approved the issue of motivating the staff. In terms of mindset of the staff, we are relatively there now – we pay salaries on time – on the 22nd of every month, compared to previously when salary payment sometimes even rolled into another month – all that de-motivates staff. Other administrative measures have to do with intensifying our enforcement drive in our audit and we have also introduced a couple of reforms; ASYCUDA will move from the old ASYCUDA to ASYCUDA World which is actually helping with a lot of declarations, creating sanity within the Custom system and on the policy front, the Ministry of Finance is doing well to reduce exemptions. The Ministry of Finance also does not delay our 3% unlike previously. Now there is a standing order – the relationship between Ministry of Finance and NRA has improved. Previously anyone who knows NRA will say the tension between the Ministry of Finance and NRA was really serious and the ministry was depriving them and they were also not taking orders from the ministry. But now we work as a team - teamwork has now increased. The other one has to do with the political support. For the first time in the history of revenue administration we have had that highest level of interest in revenue administration. Every week we give briefing to the President on what is happening at NRA in terms of revenue and even our reforms. He is so much supportive. State House is so much supportive of that. These are all combined factors which have actually led to this huge revenue jump that is now something everybody is admiring.
AYV: Thank you for your time.
DR. JIBAO: You’re welcome.