ATAF Strengthens Rapport Between Journalists And Revenue Authorities

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(From Left) FrontPage Africa’s Lennart Dodoo, Daily Observer’s Joaquin Sendolo and LRA’s Communications, Media and Public Affairs Manager D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh successfully represented Liberia under the auspices of the LRA

As first media engagement and training climaxes in South Africa

A three-day media engagement and training for journalists and tax communicators from 21 countries in Africa, including Liberia, has climaxed in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a call to strengthening the relationship between Revenue Authorities (RAs) and the media to enhance tax compliance and domestic resource mobilization.

A good relationship between the media and RAs in countries on the continent will not only help to tell the African taxation stories, but will also certainly increase tax awareness and compliance, and boost revenue to enhance impactful development, attendees were told.
Seventy-two (72) participants (representing 20 revenue authorities and 41 news media agencies) formed part of the unique engagement, held under the auspices of the African Tax Administrative Forum (ATAF).

The Daily Observer’s Joaquin Sendolo and Davis Yates, FrontPage Africa’s Lennart Dodoo, as well as the Communications, Media and Public Affairs Manager of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh represented Liberia.

LRA Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba is a Governing Council Member of ATAF and was instrumental in Liberia’s participation. CG Tamba has meanwhile congratulated the Liberian participants and urged them to put to practice the knowledge acquired in the best interest of Liberia.

During the three-day interactive engagements, both journalists and communication managers from RAs discussed the challenges they respectively face in the discharge of their duties, the hurdles they encounter with each other, and agreed on a way forward in enhancing their relationship.

Participants realized that both the media and the RAs work in the best interests of the public for national development.

The engagement catalogued several challenges including too many bureaucracies journalists face in getting information or responses on issues from RAs, lack of trust in media practitioners by RAs, use of technical jargons/languages in discussing tax matters with the media, lack of specialization in tax reporting among journalists, limited knowledge of Communication Officers on technical tax issues, among others.

In addressing these challenges, participants stressed the need for RAs to open their doors to the media and build mutual relationships in disseminating tax and related information to the public.

They further called for more similar engagements and underscored training needs for both tax communicators and the media to empower them effectively to play their respective roles.

The engagement resolved on few next steps to be facilitated by ATAF including the formation of a network comprising tax communicators and tax reporters, the creation of a toolkit on tax reporting, the conduct of training at both ends and the sharing of ATAF’s events information and other tax matters, where applicable, with journalists and tax communicators.

Facilitated by Fiona Musana of Uganda and moderated by ATAF Communications Manager Romeo Nkoulou Ella, the event was intended to bridge the gap between RAs and journalists to ensure that taxpayers are adequately informed by the RAs through the mainstream media.

ATAF believes that when citizens are better and adequately informed (through the media) they tend to become tax compliant which would ensure revenue growth to facilitate national development.

The engagement, among others, focused on how Africa is addressing priority tax issues at the local and international levels and how the media can positively impact the work of tax administrations.

Making her closing remarks Mary Baine, head of International Tax and Technical Assistance, applauded participants for showing up and taking a keen interest in the March 26-29 event. She urged them to remain engaged and assured ATAF’s unending commitment to working with media and tax authorities in improving taxation on the continent.

ATAF was inspired by the deliberations at the “International Conference on Taxation, State Building and Capacity Development in Africa” held in Pretoria, South Africa from 28 – 29 August 2008. Commissioners, Senior Tax Administrators and Policy Makers from 28 African countries resolved to work towards the establishment of ATAF.

Headquartered in South Africa, ATAF was thus established in order to create a platform to promote and facilitate mutual cooperation among African Tax Administrations and other relevant and interested stakeholders with the aim of improving the efficiency of their tax legislation and administration.

It was a program that reflected African needs and strategies, and the work and program priorities of the Forum were driven and managed by African countries, with the support of donor agencies, other tax administrations, and international organizations.

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