By Mustapha Jallow
Officials of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) on Wednesday engaged 36 students and 4 staff of the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC) on tax administration matters in the country.
The seminar focused on raising the awareness level of journalist students for them to have better understanding of tax issues and revenue laws administered by the GRA as well as play a crucial role in accurate reporting on taxation matters and also advocating to improving compliance.
The day-long seminar, which seeks to enhance the participants’ understanding of the tax system in The Gambia, was held at a local hotel in Senegambia and organised by GRA with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The event was attended by MAJaC students and staff and other GRA staff.
“The role of the media and the media academy in tax administration cannot be over emphasised. The media and media practitioners play an important role in our taxpayers’ education programmes and this is key in promoting voluntary compliance,’’ said Mr. Yankuba Darboe, Commissioner General of GRA, while declaring his opening statement.
Darboe hoped that during the interaction, participants in the seminar would seize the opportunity to positively engage the resource persons with a view to understanding the mechanics of tax administration and the central role that GRA play in that regard.
Darboe stated that the discussion will be centred on issues of revenue collection processes, procedures and other tax administration matters with reference to the revenue laws. It will also be tailored on taxpayer compliance obligations and rights in the payment of domestic revenue, he added.
“The seminar will also avail participants the opportunity to express their concerns in the process of their engagements with the authority. These important feedbacks on the services rendered by GRA, will be taken with utmost seriousness for further service improvements going forward,’’ he told the participants.
Prior to this engagement with MAJaC, Darboe said GRA also engaged other key stakeholders such as the lawmakers, regional authorities, the chamber of commerce, tertiary education institutes, the media fraternity, clearing & forwarding agents etc. He said this was done in a series of programs to deepen their understanding of the revenue laws and other administration issues in the past.
“I kindly urge you (participants) to make the sessions interactive by asking questions, and participating fully in the discussions that will take-place to enhance knowledge sharing and better understanding of tax issues,’’ he urged.
Essa Jallow, the Deputy Commissioner General of GRA, said the tax seminar activities were part of GRA’s strategic goal of stakeholder engagement, saying it is important to educate and sensitize the population. This, he said, would ensure the public is aware of the tax laws, processes and procedures for meeting their tax obligations both domestic taxes and customs.
“We know that we cannot achieve this goal without working with you closely as in your case you are on a daily basis engaged in sensitizing and educating the population on economic, social and political issues which is a sine qua non for achieving increased citizens participation in state matters, holding governments to account by their citizens, increasing the democratic space which ultimately leads to good governance, socio-economic development and political maturity,’’ he remarked.
“Engaging you in this manner will undoubtedly bridge the information gap between GRA and the journalism community which will reduce the extent of misinformation and inaccurate reporting some of which will have a negative impact on the GRA’s revenue mobilization efforts and capacity.
“We are not saying that positive criticisms are bad. We just don’t want to see an environment where only sensational journalism becomes the order of the day when there are other very important and high value information which should be obtained and disseminated,’’ DCG Jallow explained.
Sang Mendy, the Managing Director of MAJaC, said tax is everyone’s business, saying everyone pays tax in one way or the other.
“Journalists should play a vital role in enlightening the public on their roles and responsibilities and tax is one of those responsibilities. When journalists are grounded with the requisite knowledge and skills in tax-related matters, they effectively inform the public on what should be done. As would be employees due to pay tax through your employers, and as would be entrepreneurs hoping to own media platforms in future, it is important to know about tax and its related matters,’’ Mendy said.
Mendy said training on these special areas would only give his students a competitive edge when they graduate and become reporters. In sports, he added ‘we call it catch them young.’
Madam Lucy Faye Jagne, GRA’s Board Chairperson and CEO Fyen Consulting Service, explained how GRA’s improvement made them able to collect over D1.2 billion a month, describing it a big achievement for the institution.
Therefore, she hoped that MAJaC can play a critical role in promoting accurate reporting of taxation matters, advocate for compliance and interaction with the public as well as business community. She also urged the participants to spend lot of their time on researching
“Professionalism is very important. You have to research a lot to increase your own personal knowledge so that you can also report accurately on issues and provide facts and avoid fake news,’’ she advised.