The Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Mrs. Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, has appealed that the government of Liberia transmit to its account at least 5.5 to 7 percent of the domestic revenue it collects annually.
Commissioner General Tamba made the appeal when she, along with other staff and members of the LRA Board of Directors, bade farewell to outgoing Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh.
Mrs. Tamba warned that if their request is not heeded, it could pose serious threats to the national coffer, as revenue generation could drop.
She told outgoing Minister Konneh: “There have been and continue to be many challenges. Underfunding of the instruction remains the major challenge. This challenge, if not mitigated, will further heighten the risk to our national revenue and to the attainment of the strategic outcomes, as your final signature as Finance Minister, Republic of Liberia.”
She pleaded with Mr. Konneh to do all to sign their request before he departs Liberia for his new job with the World Bank in Nairobi, Kenya.
Before making the request, she had praised the Minister for including the LRA in his farewell tour.
“Since early 2011, we have been working together to realize a fundamental transformation in the governance structure of the public sector in our country in order to conform to international better practice,” she recalled.
“Together, and including the recognition of former Finance Ministers Antoinette Sayeh and Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, in September 2013, a transformation goal was legislated.”
She, however, stated that though the journey to legislating the document was rocky, they all stood firm, and on July 1, 2014, the LRA as an operational vehicle commenced.
According to some officials of the LRA, in the last fiscal year, the LRA raised a little over US$640 million. Seven percent of this amount could be a substantial figure for the entity to run smoothly across the country, where it has employees assigned to collect needed revenues for the nation’s coffers.
Responding, Minister Konneh, who was leaving the country to head the World Bank Office on Fragile States, including Liberia, told the LRA authorities that the pieces of evidence are clear since the nation’s revenue house became operational.
He boasted that because of the “sound decision” they made to separate the revenue house from the Ministry of Finance and the combination of the Finance and Planning and Economic Affairs Ministries, the deadly Ebola virus disease crisis of 2014 didn’t collapse the economy, even though a lot had shut down in the country.
“Before I leave, I will be able to do something about your request. I am not doing this because you are asking but because the pieces of evidence are clear,” Mr. Konneh promised.
He also used the occasion to thank the LRA staff for working with him over the last four years and when they were still together as one body at the Ministry of Finance.
He told them that what they have done for him is far greater than what he did for them.
He added: “Four years ago when we first met I was much younger, but I am bit older now and wiser. Some of you trusted and took me in, but some of you didn’t.”
However, he thanked all of them for helping to make him the leader he is today.
“You gave me confidence to put my anger into good use. I know it wasn’t easy first in the beginning. Your doubts gave me the determination to prove you and my critics wrong. You witnessed my fear transformed into strength. Your rejection taught me courage.”
While thanking them from the bottom of his heart, he apologized to those who he might have hurt along the way.
Also speaking, LRA Board Chairman Robert Tubman praised the outgoing Minister for the many occasions he leaned toward the Board whenever he and the LRA Commissioner General made a request.
He drew a hall of laughter when he suggested that the Minister deferred his going to Nairobi and stay with the LRA.
He however promised Min. Konneh that the LRA would always be there to raise the needed revenue for Liberia.
While some critics of Mr. Konneh’s always associate his legacy to what they call his “budget shortfall,” Mr. Tubman, who served as Minister of Finance in the 1980s, described Mr. Konneh as not only a technocrat but a people’s person.
Mr. Tubman was joined by his fellow board member, Ms. Atletha Brown-Cooper, and Commissioner General Tamba to wish Minister Konneh Godspeed on his new job.