The Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Emmanuel Kofi Nti, has threatened to haul unscrupulous officials of the Authority to face the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to answer questions on their lack of diligence in carrying the responsibilities entrusted them.
According to him, the Authority will no longer continue to speak to the actions of these officials, who despite the many laws detailing how auctions should be conducted, sometimes flout these laws to the annoyance of the general public.
The GRA boss, whose comments were in reaction to recent media reports that moneys raised from auctions conducted few years ago, by the Authority, cannot be accounted for, said such officers, would have to go and account for their sins before PAC.
Many public officials, have in times past been found wanting before PAC, and ordered to be prosecuted or surcharged for unaccounted moneys.
An amount of GHc25.5 million, remains missing after the GRA, failed to account for the sale of some 1, 719 vehicles. This was contained in the 2018 report by the office of the Auditor-General, in which he disclosed how 1, 719 vehicles out of 2, 388 were unaccounted for between 2015 and 2017, after auctioning by the Authority.
“Our reconciliation of Commercial Industrial Bulletin (CIB) and payment of auction and allocation of vehicles per the GCNet system for the period reviewed disclosed that, out of 2, 388 sampled gazette vehicles, 1719 vehicles with an estimated total value of GHc25, 500, 000, were not accounted for, whilst the renaming 669 vehicles were disposed of at GHc8, 894, 187 per the GCNet impromptu system”, Deputy Auditor-General in charge of Central Government Audit Department, George Swanzy Winful, has reportedly said.
Already, chairman of PAC, James Klutse Avedzi, has said the Committee would not hesitate to recommend the prosecution of all the people involved in the auctioning said not to have followed due process.
“First of all, we need to look at the recommendations of the Auditor-General in the report. We also need to be done when the government’s assets need to be disposed of and determine if there has been a breach. Once they have been sold, we need to know who sold them and if they were auctioneers.
We have to locate them and get the revenue. If we cannot get answers to all these things, then definitely there must be officers who were involved and these officers must be prosecuted,” the chairman has said.
Answering questions during a two-day media training workshop organized for members of the Private Newspapers Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) in Koforidua in the Eastern Region, over the weekend by the Authority, Mr Kofi Nti, said although his attention has been drawn to the said report, he was yet to be briefed on the details.
He, however, said such actions cannot be swept under the carpet in the face of effort by the Authority to get the public to pay taxes for development.
According to him, such acts derail measures and polices, being rolled out by the Authority and rigorous campaign aimed at getting the public, especially the informal sector, to contribute to national development by way of taxes.
Speaking on the theme “Bringing the informal sector into the tax net –The role of the media”, the GRA boss, said the collaboration between PRINPAG and GRA on emerging tax issues, as well as the challenges and to disseminate same to the public,was a laudable one, as it will help attitude change in relation to the payment of taxes in the country and called for more of such collaborations.
Acknowledging the media’s role as gate keepers who inform, educate and entertain, Mr Kofi Nti, said the Authority has over the years developed and maintained a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the media, adding this relationship must constantly be enhanced.
In its quest to maximize revenue mobilization, GRA, continues to initiate well thought through strategies like the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), the paperless clearance system at the ports, the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), Tax Application and Preparation System (iTaPS) an online filing system to simplify the filing of returns, to ensure the flow of enough revenue into the national coffers.
“You will recall that inApril this year, GRA launched its prosecution policy. This was done to send a clear signal that GRA is focused and poised to prosecute tax defaulters. It was also meant to send a clear message that GRA does not only bark, but can also bite hard. I wish to believe that all income earners and recalcitrant taxpayers, will take a cue from this and amend their ways”.
Despite the above-mentioned initiatives, GRA thinks more work needs to be done to improve compliance, hence the need to collaborate with PRINPAG and the media in general, to get all income earning persons, to contribute their quota to nation building.
“As our partners in national development, I call on you to help in the dissemination of tax information, the need for compliance and benefits of tax payment among others to your readers.
“There is the need for deliberate and sustained efforts on your part as members of the fourth estate of the realm to set the agenda on taxation, thereby creating the required awareness that will complement the Authority’s interventions and ultimately bring about attitudinal change with regards to tax issues”, Mr Kofi Nti emphasized.
He further called on the media to be tax compliant saying “To be emboldened and to have the moral right to spread the message on compliance, you need to be compliant yourselves. I therefore challenge PRINGPAG as a body and your individual members, whether as corporate entities or sole proprietors, to be alive to your tax responsibilities by honouring your obligations”.
Eastern Regional Minister Eric Kwakye Darfour, said the decision by GRA to sharpen the knowledge and equip journalists on issues relating to payment of taxes and to use their platforms to support the tax Authorities to bring more people, especially those in the informal sector into the tax net at this crucial moment, was apt, adding the media in Ghana, has began to assert itself and seeing themselves as a useful tool for development not in isolation, but in collaboration with government and state institutions.
Studies, he said have shown factors that make the informal sector very difficult to tax. He mentioned that because of the predominance of cash transactions, poor record keeping, high illiteracy rate, little or no barriers to entry, ignorance of the tax laws, as some of the factors, but said it is this same sector which has great potential for “Necessary domestic revenue mobilization and to reduce huge budget deficit in the informal sector”.
President of PRINPAG Andrew Edwin Arthur, who stressed the importance of the workshop, said even though media practitioners have the responsibility of disseminating information for development, it must do so with credible, relevant and well researched information, that could have the potential of affecting people’s lives positively.
He decried the inability of practitioners to specialize to educate the public effectively, blaming it on the educational system. He called on media practitioners, to refrain from reckless and unnecessary sensationalism and focus on issues that attract the general public in a positive light.
President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) Rowland Affail Monney, challenged participants to justify the decision to organize the workshop for members by making it reflect in their write ups.