Open Letter to the LRA Hon. Elfreda Tamba Commissioner General Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA)

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Honorable Commissioner General:

I write to congratulate you for your tireless efforts in making sure to complete the setting up of the now “Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA)” with the objective intention to identify and raise more revenues that have either ended up in private pockets over the years or have been ignored by few people that had the responsibility and authority to deposit those revenues into Government accounts.

These kinds of efforts can only be applied by true patriots like you and those that work behind the scenes to see or insure a successful work.

Your confirmation as “Commissioner General” of the Liberia Revenue Authority marks a very important milestone in the fight against corruption in Liberia. As you are aware, in the wake of continuous extortion of Liberia’s resources, decentralization of state management is highly recommended. Giving more power to the regions is highly recommended to determine local policies and development priorities.  These include such areas as education, social infrastructure and human development, as well as the power to implement these policies such as forming their own budgets, financing developmental policies and  collecting certain types of taxes, etc.

Likewise local authorities should be held accountable for what happens in their regions and they should be made less reliant on central authorities. Local authorities should have a share in managing state assets on their territories and gaining incomes from them, as well for financing projects.

Corruption has over the centuries have left a negative impact on Liberia and has  increased the marginalization of minority groups, including women. It has also in the past led to radicalizing opposition  to the State and most times contributed to conflict.

Corruption, as overt in the Liberian society, poses a serious threat to the efforts such as the system you have worked tirelessly over the years to establish; hence the need to deal with corruption rigidly is highly recommended.

In recent years, there has  been increasing attention paid to the effects of corruption in post conflict and recovery environments. Various studies (by UNDP, World Bank & Transparency International) confirm that about half of  post-war countries revert to war within one decade and corruption can be considered as one of the major factors that contribute to fuelling a conflict and the return to violence. Therefore, overcoming corruption in post-war Liberia is essential to restoring the confidence of Liberians at home and abroad.

Post conflict reconstruction is normally characterized by large scale injection of resources in an environment where the legal and institutional frameworks are weak, fragile or inexistent and where expertise is scarce. Detection of crime is very low and enforcement difficult or ignored. The surviving governing structures are weak in financial, fiscal, administrative and regulatory capacities and limited oversight is informal and sometimes criminalized.   These institutions are often transitional in nature, carrying very little or no legitimacy, and are therefore prone to be captured by the privileged elite with access to power and resources. The lack of popular participation in reconstruction is vulnerable to hijacking by local elites, which leads to corruption, waste of available and scarce resources, lack of maintenance and monitoring by beneficiaries and eventual rejection in the long run.

The main purpose of zero tolerance on corruption in Liberia should be to assist post-conflict Liberia in developing anti-corruption strategies and strategies to identify and raise more revenue to undertake development projects in cities in the 15 counties. These strategies will be used to develop programs on anti-corruption in post-war Liberia and recovery process,  which will be a tool that will assist local Governments throughout Liberia.

Since Liberia’s independent in the 1800s, there have been fluctuating economic stages which in most cases have led to the under development of Liberia compared to other countries in the sub-region. In my opinion, the newly created Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) stands a better chance to bring about accountability, credibility, though enforcement and other aspects that have either been ignored as a result of incompetence or corruption.

As I drive around Monrovia, I witness huge traffic violations by Government, commercial & private vehicles on the daily basis. I think your Commission can liaise with the Justice Ministry, the Liberia National Police (LNP), Transport Ministry and Ministry of Finance, Development and Planning to set up a very good enforcement structure to make millions in revenues  from reckless drivers in Liberia.

How the above Government institutions can contribute:

Transport Ministry: This Ministry will regularize the registration of all vehicles in the Republic of Liberia. Once this is done, a national database can be created to enable enforcing Ministries or agencies to have easy access to needed information both at the traffic call center and at various traffic courts in the 15 counties.

The Transport Ministry can also secure 15 to 25 acres of land to be used for the construction of multipurpose complex to include road or safety emission inspection machines for all vehicles. The purpose of the safety emission inspection will be to ensure that cars plying the streets of Monrovia and other major cities meet all safety requirements before plying the streets. The same area will be used to park towed vehicles. Towed vehicles will be charged towing fees and daily parking fees. If a vehicle’s towing and daily parking fees exceed certain amount, Government should auction the vehicle and deposit the proceeds into a   government revenue account.

Justice Ministry: In the effort to properly and legally enforce the rules, the Ministry of Justice will either capacitate the traffic courts or create new ones in every city throughout the republic of  Liberia, with representation of LRA at each Court to monitor and ensure that intended Government revenues are not redirected in the pockets of individuals.

Liberia National Police (LNP): Although the LNP does not have the confidence of the public, it is the legal law enforcement Agency of the Republic of Liberia. In this case, the LNP traffic department will select a good number of traffic officers and enhance their training for the purpose of patrolling assigned areas and issuing violation tickets. Since the LNP has some credibility problems, a crime or traffic call center will be created at the LNP headquarters or in a neutral building. At that call center, LNP officers along with LRA and Transport Ministry officers will be assigned there to monitor calls to ensure that violators are issued tickets appropriately. In this case, once an LNP officer pulls over a violator, the call center will immediately be alerted. The vehicle license plate number will be given to the call center. The LNP officer will name the violation (all violations will be properly coded with the appropriate charges). Once the violation ticket is issued, it is immediately reported in the system.

Also under the LNP, tow  trucks can be assigned to various busy traffic routes to tow broken down or impounded vehicles. Towing will be done at the vehicle owner’s expense.

Ministry of Finance, Development & Planning:  This Ministry will set up the central account number and the 15 local account numbers for each county. Under the county account numbers will also be the sub account numbers for each city in that county. For example, if a  violation ticket for the amount of LRD500.00  is issued in the City of Paynesville, 35% (or to be determined by either law or LRA) of the LRD 500.00 will go to the city of Paynesville while the remaining 65% will go to central Government. The total amount will be deposited in the central account for audit and accountability purposes.

The 35% that goes to the city in which the violation took place can be used to employ or capacitate city employees to enforce city maintenance. For example: The City of Paynesville can pass a City law (if it is not already there) mandating all land owners in the City of Paynesville to keep their land(s) clean. In the event a land owner failed to clean his/her land every two or three weeks, the City will clean the land and impose a fine on the land owner. The money raised from the fine will be used to undertake development projects in the city, including but not limited to building or maintaining Public Schools in the city, reducing school fees for residents of the city, employing residents of the city, thus creating more jobs in the city. Those city employees will pay taxes to the government of Liberia,  thus increasing the country’s revenue capacity.

These punishments, I believe,  will have important consequences on the defendants and will bring economic gain which will enforce the purpose of LRA. Over the years we have experienced different stages in our law enforcement that seem not to be working for the Government but instead for the individuals enforcing the laws. In my view, the primary goal of punishment should be to assist violators to turn their lives around and to safeguard society. On the other hand,  violators should also be used to raise revenue to undertake development projects and to compensate victims by benefiting from some of the development projects in the city (ies) they (victims) live. 

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