The Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, says the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has a lot to offer and the LRA will count its assistance in enhancing the country’s challenged tax administration.
Mrs. Tamba said UNMIL has played a very significant role in rebuilding Liberia, and as UNMIL gradually draws down, the LRA will tap on its expertise and logistical support to empower LRA better serve the Liberia people.
Mrs. Tamba was speaking Monday, February 22, 2016 when she led an LRA delegation to pay a working visit with Mr. M. Farid Zarif, the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Coordinator of the United Nations Operation in Liberia.
Mrs. Tamba, among other things, stressed the need for a better partnership with UNMIL in border control and ports management in enhancing revenue collection, strengthening of the LRA Professional Ethics Division to fight fraud in the revenue sector and the provision of logistics to the LRA Customs sector including uniforms, vehicles and other border administration related gadgets.
The Commissioner General in a brief statement presented the LRA to the UNMIL Boss, detailing its function, progress, opportunities, challenges and areas of assistance. The LRA, Mrs Tamba told SRSG Zarif, was in dire need of uniforms for its customs officers assigned at border posts.
While Immigrations officers were fully attired at borders, ports and points of entry, Customs officers were not, something she said was a challenge that needed to be addressed in the face of funding challenges faced by the LRA.
“Uniforming of customs cannot be over emphasized because of the role it plays in any country,” Mrs. Tamba continued. “So we ask your team, whether or not UNMIL could assist the LRA with uniforms for our customs officers. We have about 300 plus customs officers at all of the border points—land and sea and where you have immigration uniformed, you do not have the LRA officers uniformed.”
She said given that there are always complaints about Customs Officers, “we think that uniforming them will help us better manage our staff and will also help the passengers and other users of ports of entry to determine which agency of government he or she is dealing with.”
Mrs. Tamba said her delegation which included Customs Commissioner Saa Saamoi, Professional Ethic Division (PED) Chief Sumo Kalaplee and the LRA Policy Manager Wellington Jah and Head of Communications and Media A. Trokon Tarr was meeting with the UNMIL Chief to see how, UNMIL in its draw down process, can be a help to the LRA.
On the issue of constraints faced by UNMIL officers from local port officers at the Roberts International Airport during departure and arrival, Mrs. Tamba assured Mr. Zarif that a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) would be developed to enhance smooth working cooperation.
Customs Commissioner Saa Saamoi added that investigations indicate that Customs Officers were not part of any such treatments against peacekeepers, and that plans are underway to have joint discussions aimed at ending such embarrassment.
Responding, SRSG Zarif applauded the LRA for the progress and assured the LRA that consideration would be given to the training needs of the LRA in building capacity building to enhance performance.
He recognized the efforts and importance of the LRA to the country and pledged to work collaboratively in resolving ports and customs related challenges especially with respect to UNMIL Personnel.
He urged the LRA to provide hotlines to enable UN personnel to call and lodge whatever issues they have with Customs at the airport, and that UNMIL will also provide a telephone number for exchange of communication aimed at resolving any issue with its staff.
SRSG Zarif said he sees no reason why UN personnel will not want to abide by the law of the state since the UN itself is a strong proponents of orderliness and the rule of law.
“I have absolutely no mercy for people who violate the law, there will be no mercy, and there will be no protection for those who depart from the law,” the UNMIL Boss asserted.