May 8, 2019
By Mohamed Massaquoi
President Julius Maada Bio has told lawmakers that as part of the implementation of Executive Order 1, his government has conducted an in-depth investigation into duty and tax waivers granted to Non-Governmental Organisations, contractors and investors by the then All Peoples Congress (APC) government.
The president said it has been very challenging for his administration to totally eliminate all duty waivers granted to individuals and institutions as international agencies and NGOs covered under the Vienna and Geneva Conventions, several agreements and contracts signed and ratified by parliamentarians.
“This Honorable House before April 2018 provided for massive duty and tax waivers to contractors and investors. That crumbles the growth of the country. That notwithstanding, I am pleased to report considerable revenue gain as a result of the rationalization of the duty and tax waivers. Between April 2018 and March 2019, total duty and tax exemption was estimated at Le 385.91 billion compared to Le 488.54 billion for the period April 2017 and March 2018. This represents a 26.5 percentage gain in revenue,” the president said, adding that government is now finalizing a robust and holistic duty and tax waiver policy that will limit the discretionary powers of government to grant waivers for the consideration of Cabinet.
It could be recalled that Office of Diaspora Affairs developed a duty free concession for Sierra Leonean Diaspora Returnees.
“We were asked to formally write a letter requesting for duty waiver, a photocopy of the front page of the applicant’s Sierra Leonean passport and also a copy of the page indicating date of entry in country. It was very clear that the application letter should be signed by the applicant and addressed to the Director, Office of Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President. Unfortunately that process was abused by the then administration,” Usman Kamara, a businessman said.
Significantly, the Network Movement for Justice and Development, (NMJD) in one of their numerous reports, urged government to reduce tax waivers, especially to mining companies, claiming that it is not in the best interest of the country and undermines economic growth.