‘Salone spent more on tax give-aways than development priorities’


…BAN Report says

By Hawa Amara

A report released yesterday revealed that in 2011, Sierra Leone spent more on tax give-aways than on its development priorities, with mining firms being the biggest beneficiaries.

The report, ‘Losing Out’ is based on research undertaken by Budget Advocacy Network, BAN, National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives, NACE, and Tax Justice Network-Africa, TJNA, with support from Christian Aid, Action Aid and IBIS, stated that in 2012, tax exemptions amounted to more than eight times the country’s health budget and seven times its education budget.

According to the report, despite the country’s strides in re-establishing security and democracy 12 years after the end of the civil war, more than 50% of its citizens still live below the national poverty line.

“In the mining sector, the government abolished customs duties on capital equipment, made companies exempt from payment of a tax on goods and services and offered major reductions in corporate income tax to two British investors; London Mining and African Minerals,” the report stated.

During the launch of the report at Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown, BAN Coordinator, Abu Bakarr Kamara, questioned both the size of the exemptions and the way in which contracts had been awarded.

He noted that in recent years, the country has worked hard to exploit its large deposits of iron ore, diamonds, bauxite and rutile, with the government keen to persuade mining companies to invest.

“At the same time, foreign companies have been encouraged to take over huge tracts of land for agribusiness. This has resulted in too many tax incentives being granted to companies behind closed doors, at the discretion of a very small number of ministers and officials with limited involvement of Parliament, let alone the public,” he said.

While launching the report, outgoing Director of Public Education and Outreach at the Anti-Corruption Commission, ACC, Shollay Davies, opined that although some efforts have been made in the recent past to review mining contracts for most companies in the extractive industry, which has yielded much dividend, yet there is more to be done to fetch much needed revenue for national development.

The newly appointed deputy Commissioner of the anti-graft body called on the Ministry of Finance and Economic, the National Revenue Authority, NRA, and other partners to take appropriate action on findings and recommendations contained in the report.