Inaugurating the newly-formed board of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta indicated that, government need radical change in revenue administration with the urgent need to address inefficiencies, corruption and the prevailing culture of the agency.
He called for a “heavy-handed” approach to tax collection as government seeks to bolster domestic revenue mobilisation to be the anchor of its fiscal policy to facilitate economic and social prosperity.
“Fiscal slippages resulting from the poor performance of revenue mobilisation have led to unsustainable budget deficit levels at a time that we need to sustain investments in key sectors of the economy,” the speech read by the deputy Finance Minister, Kweku Kwarteng, said.
According to Mr. Ofori-Atta it has become very critical for government to tighten domestic revenue generation following the numerous tax reliefs to businesses on the back of dwindling donor aid to the country.
In that regard, he said his outfit will among others undertake tax administration reforms, improve tax compliance through data matching as well as improve transfer pricing audits and introduce electronic point of sale devices (POS) to curb tax evasion.
Also, to tighten avenues for under-invoicing and smuggling, government will soon commence full implementation of the Excise Tax Stamp Act 2013 (Act 873), improve controls on exemptions and conduct structured post clearance audit.
Mr. Ofori-Atta was very particular about the country’s ports and operations of Customs where the country loses billions of cedis and urged the new GRA boss to help sanitise the port industry.
This must be the most difficult board because of the pressure we might bring to bear and the dangers that are wrought with Customs and the ports. The test of government’s mettle will be how serious we can get with revenue collection by dealing with corruption.
“You will have to clean up the Augean stables; you have the presidency and the finance ministry behind you; and you will have to be aggressive. You will have to be heavy-handed but within the law.”
Board chairman, Harry Owusu, commended government for the trust and pledged to mobilise revenue to meet set targets and government development agenda.
He said the board will live up to the mandate and called for full cooperation and support of the Ministry to be able to deliver on their mandate.
Also, as part of government’s three major policy initiatives which the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia announced at the Port Efficiency Conference in Accra last week that, starting from September 1, 2017, all Customs road barriers in Ghana are to be removed and the personnel deployed elsewhere.
The others are mandatory joint inspection of goods at the Ports by GCNET and West Blue and the Ports going paperless.
The new directives forms part of efforts to make Ghana’s ports very competitive in the sub region.
“This single window, double window matter, we have to deal with it. The whole issue that has to do with the presence of multiple agencies at the ports, we are going to deal with it, we are not going to wait for months to come but in four weeks time… we have these three policy items that we are announcing today but in another four weeks when we resolve recommendations of this conference we will be announcing those decisions at that point in time.
Explaining the rationale for the three new policy initiatives, Dr Bawumia said “we’ve been looking at these issues for a while and there is no need to really delay on certain things.”
“From September 1, we want to see mandatory joint inspections and examinations of containers at the ports.”
“Secondly, from September 1, however we do it, because the technology is available, Ghana is going 100 per cent paperless at the ports to bring about efficiency, Customs, GRA, GPHA take notice.”
“The third policy reform that we are implementing is to do with the transit corridors and the barriers that are there that inhibits as far as transit trade is concerned.
“We want to from September 1, and Customs you have time to do this, all internal Customs barriers are eliminated from September 1 in Ghana, all of them. We are eliminating them and we’ve done discussions with the Minister of National Security on this.”
“It will really change Ghana’s competitiveness in the sub region, we’ve looked at the revenues that are being generated from these barriers and they are really nothing to write home about, but the cost to the consumers and trackers and so on.
“So we will want to give Customs the opportunity to re-deploy these staff from the various areas. We want to strengthen tracking and checking at the ports, that is the first order of business,” the Vice President said.
Source: Adnan Adams Mohammed