The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) has commended Ecorys, a leading European research and consultancy firm supporting the development of LRA customs operations, for its outstanding technical support to the entity over the years, a release has said.
Hired by the European Union (EU), Ecorys helped grow domestic revenue by over US$1 million and covered the training and capacity building of over 300 LRA staff in specialized skills development in the area of customs operations.
“Today, the LRA is very excited for this milestone accomplishment, which has substantially improved our mode of doing business, standardized our procedures with the overarching goal of improving Trade Facilitation, a major priority of the government,” LRA officer-in-charge and Acting Commissioner Decontee T. King-Sackie said recently at the close of the program.
According to Madam Sackie, as a result of these accomplishments, the Customs Department has maintained revenue targets in spite of the decline in international trade.
“We would like to thank Ecorys Project Team and staffs at the Customs Department for being committed to ensure that the project was fully delivered,” she said.
Madam Sackie then thanked the EU for its continued support, and also authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) through the National Authorizing Office for similar support.
LRA Commissioner of Customs, Saa Saamoi, whose department directly benefited from the project, praised members of the Ecorys Team for the assistance in boosting the LRA’s technical capacity and for enhancing the transformation agenda.
“We are very grateful to members of the Ecorys’ project team, who have helped our Customs administration over the last two years to identify elements of fraud in Customs and weaknesses in the existing legislation, which have the potential to undermine the department of Customs to collect needed revenue and manage our borders with the required efficiency,” Saamoi said at a recent gathering in Monrovia.
He reported that a very strong working relationship was established with the project team, which often brought about a common view and approach in tackling existing problems in Customs services.
Mr. Saamoi made the statement during the presentation of results of the operational phase of the EU-funded two-and-a-half year “Long-Term Technical Assistance to the LRA Customs Department.”
The presentation event also marked the end of the project and brought together representatives of the Ecorys, which implemented the project, the EU, the LRA, government entities, development partners and the private sector.
According to the release, the Ecorys project team demonstrated that the project was successful as the three vital expected results were achieved with more than one hundred outputs delivered under the three components.
The report highlighted that the project had a significant impact across component, one which directed Support to the LRA Headquarters, while component two provided Support to the Compliance and Enforcement Division.
This included enhancing management capacity through training and capacity building, and establishing and building the capacity of a Customs Modernization Unit.
The project also developed and implemented an intelligence function to support risk assessment, Post Clearance Audit and anti-smuggling operations, and trained a total of 349 LRA staffs.
Under Component three, which consists of support to urban and rural ports, the project laid the foundations for a Center of Excellence, created a Central Assessment Unit, and provided training for its staffs.
Ecorys Team Leader Peter Bennett said the message of overall progress is reflected in the revenue collection figures, which through the life of the project grew by US$1 million per year – highly impressive in a context where other global trade has decreased.
He thanked former LRA Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba and Mr. Saamoi for providing support throughout the project period.
European Union Head of Section and Acting Head of Cooperation Ioannis Tzartzas described the EU’s contribution as a “pleasing accomplishment.”
According to the release, the EU contributed more than US$2 million to support Customs, “because we believe in the importance of domestic revenue mobilization, and first results show that the project has generated much-needed revenue for the government.”
Tzartzas said more efficient customs procedures, such as the Central Assessment Unit, makes it easier for Liberian and international businesses to trade in the years to come, urging the 349 Liberians, who were mentored and trained by the consultants, to put what they have learned into daily practice now that the experts are leaving the country.