Why Liberia Revenue Authority Collectors Aren’t Assigned At Those Forestry Development Authority Checkpoints?
IT IS STATED AMONG the Forestry Development Authority’s (FDA) Missions that it should ensure that the appropriate taxes, fees and levies are collected. However, this “ensuring” doesn’t mean that it should be the FDA collecting the fees from people who are to pay said fees. Or in the extreme situation where the FDA’s agents are the ones who did the collection, the FDA can’t be the custodian of those funds that it amasses from people who pay taxes of other fees on certain forest products.
HOWEVER, THIS is what the FDA has been and is doing, which we think is totally against the law creating the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).
THE FDA was not enacted to do to the work solely set aside by law for the LRA.
THE LRA WAS established by an Act of Legislature in September 2013 for the purposes of assessing and collecting national revenues as specified in the Revenue Code of Liberia and other related laws; administering, accounting, auditing, enforcing revenue collection laws and regulations; and educating taxpayers to facilitate tax and Customs compliance. The Authority replaces the Department of Revenue. The LRA mission is to professionally, fairly, transparently and effectively collects lawful revenue; facilitate legitimate trade and social protection for the people of Liberia.
HOWEVER, OTHER sectors of Government, like the FDA, can help it collect the lawful taxes and other fees but every penny collected from taxpayers must be sent to the Government of Liberia’s Consolidated Account, which is kept at the Central Bank of Liberia.
WHILE THE FDA’S Act of 1976 provides for the Authority as a corporate body pursuant to the Public Authorities Law. The Authority shall also have the power to establish Government Forest Reserves, Native Authority Forest Reserves, Communal Forests and National Parks.
NEVERTHELESS, it has come to the attention of FrontPageAfrica that indeed FDA is “ensuring” that the appropriate taxes, fees and levies are collected from those using the forest products.
BUT THE ACCOUNTABILITY of said monies that are paid to the FDA via mobile money has come under scrutiny. Even the LRA wasn’t prepared to readily give an answer to this newspaper when it was approached by us just seeking to know if it is in the know whether the FDA is depositing the collected monies in the Government of Liberia’s Consolidated Accounts.
FDA HAS BEEN collecting hundreds of thousands in Liberian dollars as levy on non-timber products at various checkpoints across the country but said money is not deposited in government revenue account. The monies collected are transferred into a mobile money account after being collected in physical cash by the agents at checkpoints across the country.
THE MOBILE MONEY number, 0888-207721, though registered as Forestry Development Authority (Central Office), is mobile number of Edward Kamara, Marketing Manager. All 30 checkpoints across the country transfer fees collected to his mobile money number.
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED by FrontPageAfrica show that for the month of January, agents assigned at the Klay checkpoint in Bomi County were able to raise and transfer a total of L$570,415.
THE FEES ARE collected on non-timber products like sawn timber, charcoal, round pole/rafer, bamboo, rattan cane, rattan (bitter root), Raphia palm fond, xylopia fruits, fuel wood, chewing sticks, natural honey, palm wine, specialty wood species, tree bark, bitter root, etc. Prices for various items varies.
IN ADDITION TO LACK of accountability of these funds, checkpoint agents are complaining that though they make a monthly salary of only L$12,000, they have not been paid for several months. Now, imagine, for January alone and from one point of collection, more than half a million dollars was collected in revenue.
ASSUMING, all 30 checkpoints collected at least L$500,000 (US$2,551) for January alone, the government should have realized more than US$75,000.
“WE COLLECT a lot of money and it is all transferred to a mobile money account. The top hierarchy at the FDA have been mismanaging this money and diverting it to their personal use instead of depositing into government’s revenue account,” an agent who preferred anonymity told FrontPageAfrica.
WAIT A MINUTE, we at FrontPageAfrica are concerned why aren’t LRA agents, who are trained in such matters, assigned at each of these 30 checkpoints to collect the revenues, which is due government? We think this is a grave mistake on the part of the LRA. For too long many bad Liberians have duped this country of its lawful revenues.
THESE BAD APPLES have collected the taxes and siphoned them for their personal aggrandizements.
THE FDA SHOULD be made to account for every cent it has collected and it should henceforth begin to deposit every fee into the Government of Liberia’s Consolidated Account. The LRA must at once move to assign agents at each of these FDA’s checkpoints.