-- Senate sets ad-hoc committee to investigate fees hike
Barely two days after the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), threatened to shut down businesses in the country, President George M. Weah has suspended with immediate effect the new fees recently imposed on businesses by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).
President Weah made the decision on Thursday, August 5, 2021 after a serious meeting with business people, including the leadership of Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), headed by its chairman, Dominic Nimely.
According to Mr. Nimely, the suspension of the fees takes effect immediately and will last until January 2021, as mandated by President Weah.
This decision follows after PATEL, on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, threatened to shut down business activities nationwide if the government failed to reconsider its decision to impose new increment of fees on imports and exports.
Mr. Nimely said the business community received from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) a notice of additional fees valued at a little over US$1,100 which, he declared, is unfortunate and will not be accepted by the business community.
Mr. Nimely said the business community is delighted with the new decision coming from the President, which PATEL’s leadership called for.
Yesterday’s meeting brought together the Customs Union Brokers Association, PATEL, the president of FUMA building down Waterside, the president of the Paynesville Business Association, the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the president of the Liberia Business Association, Fula community, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Liberia Revenue Authority.
Mr. Nimely said when the LRA was quizzed about the decision to announce the increment of fees, authority said the increment is as a result of the new company, MEDTECH SCIENTIFIC Company LTD, bringing scanner machines, building of three warehouses, and a Destination Inspection site.
Mr. Nimely said he argued that the MEDTECH SCIENTIFIC Company LTD is yet to build either of these things, therefore it was unfortunate for business people to start to pay fees for services that the business community is yet to benefit from.
“MEDTECH SCIENTIFIC Company LTD does not have the blueprint yet. Therefore suspend it until the work can start and we can all come together and discuss it.”
Although the Liberian leader has suspended the new fees, the Plenary of the Liberian Senate has constituted an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the increased fees for inspection and clearing of containers at the Free Port of Monrovia.
During Thursday, August 5, 2021 Session, the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert T. Chie, named Bomi County Senator Edwin M. Snowe as Chairman of the committee; and Senators Henrique Tokpah of Bong County, Botoe Kanneh of Gbapolu County, Jonathan Boycharles Sogbie of River Gee County and Emmanuel Nuquay of Margibi County, as members.
According to a Senate release, the decision by the Senate Plenary to constitute a committee to probe the matter was triggered by a communication from Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe.
In his communication, Senator Snowe informed the August Body that MEDTECH SCIENTIFIC Company LTD, which is operating at the Free Port of Monrovia, has rapidly increased charges for Container Inspection. According to him, MEDTECH SCIENTIFIC Company LTD has increased the charges from US$190.00 and US$280.00 to US$280.00 and US$400 for 20ft and 40ft containers, respectively.
Additionally, Senator Snowe stated in his communication that said complaint comes from Business people, mainly Liberian Business men and women who are facing the harsh reality of importing goods in containers from abroad.
It can be recalled that BIVAC Liberia has, for many years, had a contract with the Liberian government to perform pre-shipment inspection on all in-bound shipments to Liberia.
“Beginning August 1, 2021,” the LRA announced, “Pre-shipment Inspection (PSI) is officially abolished in Liberia, and Destination Inspection (DI) shall officially commence.
“In keeping with requirements of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO-TFA), the Government of Liberia, through the Liberia Revenue Authority, has concluded a Destination Inspection (DI) Contract with MedTech Scientific (MTS),” the LRA also said in its announcement.
“All goods intended to be shipped to Liberia will be inspected only once in Liberia by MTS, Customs and any other interested parties with a defined statutory role linked to inspection,” the LRA said.
According to the LRA, Non-intrusive inspection (cargo scanning) will be introduced at customs ports of entry for greater efficiency in goods clearance.
The LRA statement said a new intrusive inspection (physical inspection) facility would be built to accommodate simultaneous inspection of multiple shipments at customs ports of entry.
“For the sake of small Liberian businesses, a de-consolidation facility will be built to facilitate the separation of single shipments by multiple owners,” LRA said.
However, according to the LRA, beginning August 1, 2021, the old fee structure by BIVAC, which was a percentage of the value of goods (ad-valorem), would be abolished. The BIVAC fees would be immediately replaced with a flat fee structure as per attached Schedule of Fees for DI services shall be introduced and paid to MTS at the designated account with Ecobank (Liberia) Ltd.
Based on a motion proffered by Senator Jonathan Boycharles SogbIe of River Gee County, the committee is expected to report its findings within two weeks.