The House of Representatives has voted to mandate the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to settle salaries of 31 retired employees for the past 18 months, which totaled US$712,800.
The House has also voted that if the LRA cannot pay-off the 31 aggrieved workers due to financial constraints, the management should restore or reinstate them until money is available to pay them off.
The lawmakers took the decision on Tuesday, April 24, during the 22nd day sitting when 30 of the 73 Representatives voted in favor of the resolution, with none against while two abstained.
The House’s decision follows a report from the Joint Committee on Claims and Petition, Judiciary and Labor about 31 LRA employees, who were wrongfully retired.
“It was observed that LRA Commissioner-General Elfreda Tamba did not give ears to the aggrieved workers, thereby causing the situation to escalate with missteps in the calculation and no proper communications between the 31 affected workers and the heads of LRA,” Representative Rustonlyn S. Dennis, the Chairperson of the Joint Committee, noted.
However, the House has also summoned Mrs. Tamba to appear on Thursday, May 3, to receive the mandate of plenary concerning the affected employees.
LRA and the House
The House’s decision to deliver the message to Mrs. Tamba in their chamber is because of LRA’s refusal to reinstate the 31 employees, when members of the 53rd Legislature ordered her to do so.
Labor Minister Moses Kollie, who was the chairman on the House’s Committee on Labor at the time, recently told senators that Commissioner Tamba is in “bad labor practice.”
The former Lofa County District 5 Representative said he observed as a lawmaker over 12 years that Commissioner Tamba has refused to adhere to mandate of the legislature, the ministries of Labor, Justice and also orders from the Supreme Court.
“I observed as a lawmaker then that Tamba practices bad labor,” Kollie said.
“As a representative, upon investigation she has refused to adhere to the mandate of the legislature, as well as the ministries of Labor, Justice and even orders from the Supreme Court to reinstate employees, who were wrongly sacked or retired,” Minister Kollie said before his confirmation hearing.
31 Retired Employees
It may be recalled that former LRA employees had written the House of Representatives to intervene in their retirement benefits of US$712,800 and their reinstatement, but Commissioner Tamba has flatly refused to abide by decisions calling for the reinstatement of the affected employees, specifically the order from the Supreme Court.
The LRA staffers were dismissed or retired by Mrs. Tamba in September, 2016, having been served letters for eligibility a month earlier.
In a communication to members of the House, the former 31 employees said most of them did not reach the retirement age of 65 or 25 years of continuous service’s tenure as contained in the labor law, yet they were retired.
The LRA has since refused to carry out the retirement process, even though salaries and all related benefits for the 31 employees were captured in the fiscal budget, FY 2016/2017.
Some of the 31 employees are Robert M. Quiah, Mulbah P. Gayflor, Peter M. Lormie, Siafa G. Sheriff, Theresa G. Kaiser, Felix S.T. Nagbe, Jemire Bull, Thomas J.Y. Germu, Rebecca Gaye, Smith G. Kanno, Nathanile C. Bestman, Robert Chayee, Edward K. Gouzah, Mike Bogba, Bob N. Johnson and Christine A. Bracewell.
LRA Real Property Tax
In a related development, LRA on Tuesday formally presented a package on Real Property Tax to each of the 73 members of the House of Representatives so as to declare their respective assets as well as give the timeline to pay Real Property Tax.
LRA’s Real Estate Tax Division, through a power point presentation on Tuesday, April 24, in the House’s Chambers informed lawmakers in a strongly-worded statement that the declaration of assets is unavoidable and that the Real Property Tax is paid once a year.
The payment of the tax, according to entity, must be done between January 1 and July 1 every year in which the tax is levied.
The Commissioner of Real Property Tax Darlingston Talery said after July 1, the payment of the Real Property Tax is considered late and would accrue penalty and interest in keeping with Section 2002 of the LRA.
“Penalty of five percent for each month elapsing after July 31 that the tax remains unpaid, but not exceed 25 percent and the interest will include the market rate as published by authorities of the Central Bank of Liberia,” Mr. Talery said.
He said delinquent tax payers will firstly be notified through a Notice of Delinquency and given a period of 30 days to respond; failure to respond or comply, the LRA will effect a 72-hour Temporary Closure.
But if said delinquent also failed to respond or comply within the given time, LRA will forward such delinquent taxpayer/s to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution through the tax court, he added.
Tuesday’s presentation is part of education awareness for revenue enhancement, to support the over US$524 million recast 2017/2018 budget.
Meanwhile some lawmakers, including Representative Edwin M. Snowe, have expressed disappointment over the six months’ period to pay the real property tax.