Press Statement by the Defunct National Revenue Authority (NRA) Board
We the members of the defunct NRA Board of Directors wish to express our gratitude to the President and the entire government for the opportunity to serve as the founding Board of NRA. We have served our country with honor and dignity and as a team, we have been committed to advance the reform agenda of the President and in doing so, we have for the first time, managed to mobilize our people to voluntarily pay their taxes to the government.
We have also closed so many loopholes and as we speak, public money is not leaking as it used to be. We have also mobilized international support for the reform in the country and for the first time, international organizations have been paying taxes. We have pursued with diligence, the East African Community integration process and we were moving closer meeting our Custom Union and Common Market obligations under the EAC Accession Treaty.
The press statement is released to clarify to the public what actually happened at the NRA, and why Commissioner General and the Board were fired by the Hon. Minister of Finance & Planning. This is warranted because the Ministerial Orders terminating the services of the Board and the Commissioner General did not specify the reasons for the Minister’s decision. However, in recent engagements with the media, the Minister opened up to explain why he took the decision. Being party to the affairs of the NRA, we strongly feel that the President and the public would be well-served by setting the records straight.
What actually happened?
Far from what was cited as the reason behind the sacking of the Commissioner General (CG) and the dissolution of the Board, the real problem was the conflict between the CG and his Deputy. From the first day of the Board meeting, it became apparent that the Deputy CG was working to take down the CG. He wrote a number of security reports purporting that the CG was working to undermine the security of the country and that some Board members did not participate in the liberation struggle and were therefore colluding with the CG. He worked very hard to create a wedge between the CG and the many government officials. When the time came in February to renew the contract of the CG, the Board was under severe pressure not to renew CG’s contract, but the Board saw no justification to terminate the contract. The Board, according to the NRA Act 2016, could only recommend relieve of the CG under two circumstances: If the CG was incompetent and unable to perform, or if he grossly violated the law. The Board could not prove either of the cases. There simply was no legal basis to terminate CG’s contract and so the Board did the right thing to keep the CG and serve public interest.
After the Board renewed the contract of the CG, the campaign was now turned against the Board. The Board was accused of bribery, colluding with the CG, being given cars or money, working against the country and many other accusations. The Board was never bribed nor did the Board receive any money other than the sitting allowances for which the Board is legally entitled and perhaps DSA in the only few occasions the Board traveled outside for training. The Board was now accused of being weak and not working to serve the interest of the country. The Board is simply a victim for not firing the CG. We still believe even as we write this press statement that the CG was doing a good job for our country by implementing the objectives of the NRA and on this basis the Board would still renew his contract.
The Board also had major disagreement with the Deputy CG with regards to the recruitment process. When the Board was constituted, the Board found an existing contract between the Ministry of Finance & Planning (MoFP) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). In that contract, the government had agreed to hire a foreigner to establish the NRA as the first CG. In the same contract, the government agreed to hire an international change management firm to handle the recruitment of the new NRA employees. The intention was to prevent corruption in hiring and to use merit-based system to hire the new workforce. Consequently, before the Board was constituted, the Tanzanian Institute of Tax Administration was hired by Ministry of Finance & Planning in collaboration with AfDB as per the agreement to handle the hiring process. When the Board was constituted the Board simply asked for the criteria that the company would use for recruitment and the Board saw the criteria was according to international standards and it was approved and the company went ahead with its process. The Board, according to the contract, does not have a role in the recruitment process, in fact, no one else does.
Although the NRA Act 2016 is very clear about the recruitment process, when the process started and some of the existing employees saw that they did not qualify or they will not meet the stringent qualification requirements, they started to give new interpretation to the law, which the Board disagrees with. They started to claim that they should have been first screened and hired and only those who did not qualify would be sent away. This interpretation did not rhyme with the law. The interpretation of Section 51 (1) and (2) of NRA Act 2016 is that the screening would be done through general advertisement of all positions and that the current employees would apply, and if they meet the criteria requirements and passed the interviews, they would get the first priority for employment, if they are competing for the same position with someone who is not an employee of directorates of customs and taxation.
When they failed to convince the Board, they wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance and Planning, threatening to go on strike. Evidently, the Deputy CG worked with and encouraged this group. In doing this, the Deputy CG went to the President and informed him of the threat of protests. This situation coincided with the protests in Khartoum and the Red Card movement planned protests. Out of fear, the Minister decided to put the recruitment process to a halt. Besides the protests, rumors were of course manufactured that the CG is married to an Azande and therefore he was recruiting all the Azande. To the contrary, out of five (5) candidates who qualified, only one was an Equatorian. These rumors were manufactured to advance the idea that the CG was working against Dinka.
There was also a very serious opposition from the Deputy CG and others in government to the press conferences declaring publicly what the NRA has collected each month. The Board was fully behind the CG in announcing publicly how much is collected. The intention was to enhance the image of the government and to get the public to pay their taxes because they can see their money being directed to proper government accounts. We could not achieve the reform envisioned by the country’s leadership, through the NRA, without transparency and accountability to the public. We wanted to send a good message to the public, the President, and the rest of the world that we have nothing to hide and that government is transparent and open.
Furthermore, other issues that contributed to the firing of the Board and CG includes: refusal of Commissioner General to grant exemptions to some businesses and government officials; transfer of money on weekly basis to the Ministry of Finance & Planning contrary to Section 39 (2) of NRA Act 2016; the retention of 2% by NRA as per Section 40 of NRA Act 2016 for establishment from the revenue collected, and the Ministry of Finance & Planning’s inability to release NRA establishment budget.
All these and other dynamics created a very toxic environment in the NRA and despite attempts by the Board to reconcile the CG and his Deputy, not much progress was made. The Minister opted to listen to gossips. The Board also wrote many letters requesting meeting with the Minister to advise and seek counsel, the Minister refused to meet the Board members. The situation was that the Board and the CG were lumped together, and the Deputy CG and the rest were in opposition. Up to this point, we believe we have shed enough light to satisfy public demand. We strongly believe that the NRA is an important public institution and that its independence and integrity should be safeguarded by the parliament. If it is subjected to political interreference as with other public institutions, it is unlikely to perform, and the President’s reform agenda may be impeded. The Board believes strongly that the President and the public are not well-served with the correct information because individuals with vested interest have and continue to choke the system.
Therefore the decision to fire the Commissioner General without the recommendation of the Board in accordance with Section 8 (3) of NRA Act 2016 is illegal. The Minister of Finance & Planning should have recommended the removal of the Board & Commissioner General to H.E the President since they were appointed by Presidential decree.