Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 October 2020:
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, on Monday commissioned five thousand Electronic Cash Registers (ECR) which will be rolled out immediately across hotels and supermarkets in the country.
The National Revenue Authority (NRA) last week, held a five-day technical training for stakeholders and business owners on the features of the ECR and how to use them.
In his address, the Finance Minister said that the widespread use of the ECR devices in tax collection is a commitment made by the New Direction Government of President Julius Maada Bio, in order to ensure transparency in business transactions and the efficient and fair collection of taxes by the NRA.
Speaking about the cost of the ECR rolling out project, the Minister (Photo: JJ Saffa) said that the five thousand ECRs and service level terms and conditions, cost approximately Five Million Dollars which he said is far less than the $10 Million Dollars controversially spent by the previous government on printing GST tax receipts.
But analysts are questioning the $5 million cost of 5,000 cash registers, which at a unit cost of $300 should bring the total cost to $1.5 million.
What is the remaining $3.5 million spent on? Is this the cost of installing and servicing the ECRs?
Who are the suppliers of the ECRs? Are they Sierra Leoneans? Did the minister go out to public tender to ensure value for money and transparency?
Minister Saffa called on taxpayers to ensure the ECR machine is used at all sales transactions and that they receive receipts, so as make reconciliation and monitoring of taxes easier for the NRA. He added that any attempt by any business or individual to tamper with the ECR or issue manual receipts, will face the full force of the law.
Dr. Samuel S. Jibao, Commissioner-General of the NRA, said that the idea of introducing ECR in taxation came about in 2018 through the initiative of the Financial Secretary, Sahr L. Jusu.
He said that businesses have been using manual GST receipts to under value their tax return, but with every transaction that is done with the ECR, a receipt is generated that will enable the NRA to know exactly how much tax the business should pay.
He commended the Government for funding seventy-percent of the project costs.
Dr. Jibao said that the NRA’s Integrated Tax Administration System, and its Single Window under the ASYCUDA, are there to improve business transactions while giving access to internal monitors to track tax records through system-generated receipts.
He commended the African Development Bank for their technical support in ensuring the successful implementation of the ECR project.
The African Development Bank (ADB), Project Coordinator, Felitisa Atanga, said that ADB has committed US$ 1.4 million dollars to the NRA through technical support for the implementation of the ECR project. He said that an International consultant was recently contracted for one year for the installation and rollout of the ECR across businesses.
Harris Agnani, representative of the business committee, welcomed the implementation of the ECR but also called on the NRA to not only focus on supermarkets or restaurants but retail outlets also.
The Minister of Trade and Industry said that the ECR is not an attack on businesses whom he said the government has a responsibility to protect, but some businesses have been deducting GST from customer transactions and failing to pass it on to the NRA.