The Board Chairperson of the National Revenue Authority Mrs. Tuma Adama Gento Kamara has made a very strong case to the Belt and Road Tax Administration Cooperation Mechanism- BRITACOM towards the support of data analytics and the establishment of a data warehouse for the National Revenue Authority in Sierra Leone. The theme for the 3rd BRITACOF is "Enhancing Tax Administration Capacity Building in the post pandemic era". In her keynote address, the Vice Chairperson of the institution Tuma Adama Gento Kamara highlighted some of the most important digital reforms made so far by the NRA in the last three years noting the immense changes in the country's revenue administration. She said that despite these positive steps, a wide range of institutional weaknesses persist, and according to her, that is where the practicality of capacity building comes in. "These weaknesses ultimately have the potential to negatively impact on the revenue mobilization drive of the Government" she said. The NRA Board Chair said that the limited capacity building and inability to catch up with the levels of revenue/GDP performance of many of the performing countries in the African continent are caused by a combination of factors such as the lack of access to reliable data, weak capacity in data analytics, low capacity of ICT staff and the inability to retain them, the lack of skills for revenue intelligence analysis, low taxpayer education, the adoption of reform projects and the absence of an evaluation mechanism to assess their effectiveness, and the lack of exposure to best practices from other countries which have successfully implemented ICT reforms.
She said for Countries like Sierra Leone, one of the main problems causing low institutional capacity is the lack of access to reliable revenue data. Although the NRA has introduced ICT systems, some key business processes are still performed manually, which render access to reliable data impossible especially when the systems are yet to be integrated or linked.
She continued that staff responsible for research and monitoring have to extract data manually from the archives which is not only time consuming, but also impairs the quality of data needed to inform tax audit, risk assessment, forecasting and research. As a first step to addressing the problem of accessing reliable data, Mrs. Gento- Kamara said the institution is planning to set up a Data Analytics unit dedicated to extracting and analysing data regularly to inform risk management, tax audit, forecasting and research. This unit is expected to be trained and provided with advanced data analytics software to ensure it handles all data needs in the Authority. Establishing and capacitating the Data Analytics unit is therefore a key indicator to the success of the project.
Moreover, the NRA Board Chair said that the institution is seeking to Establish a data warehouse which provides a one stop shop for data accessibility. According to her it is a software platform where data from internal ICT revenue systems and from ministries, departments and agencies of government will be stored and retrieved for analysis. According to her, achieving accessibility to data will be dependent on the creation of a data warehouse system.
The data warehouse she said, will partly feed from NRA ICT systems such as ASYCUDA World, ITAS and ECR, as well as operational systems of MDAs with a stake in revenue collection. Linking all these systems together makes it easier for users of the data.
She concluded by giving four recommendations that she thinks will ensure sustainability and benefit of technological advancement to tax administrations of BRITACOM,
1. ICT staff and project management teams of the technological systems of tax administrations must be fully capacitated and incentivised to ensure retention of their services.
2. A central ICT training lab should be established within the continent of Africa to train ICT staff and project management teams in the technologies of the systems rolled out and those that constantly evolve with time. Sierra Leone already has vast acreage of land space for such a training lab that can serve the rest of members of the continent.
3. Sustainability and continued benefit of revenue systems technologies in member administrations of BRITACOM could also be enhanced by building capacity in data management including setting up of a data warehouse system and data analytics function within revenue administrations.
4. Sustainability and benefit of technological systems for BRITACOM members is to strengthen capacity in digital communication through making use of interactive tools in the ICT systems of revenue administrations to reach out to taxpayers whilst they can also seek clarifications and forward complaints using the same interactive tools. Many of the revenue systems being rolled out today provide for such facility, but not sufficiently utilized to reach the elite taxpayers who contribute the larger portion of revenues raised by tax administrations.
She concluded that if that if the impact of BRITACOM is to be felt within member countries, these areas must be supported or given serious consideration.
She therefore called on China as leaders of the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Mechanism to join hands with other member countries to seriously consider the aforementioned areas of support for sustainable technology usage and capacity building in BRITACOM Revenue Administrations.