Monday, 20 June 2016

Benue Resorts To IGR With New Innovations

It is no longer news that the country is facing serious economic challenges as a result of the falling prices of crude which has prompted a decline in the   income of the three tiers of government in the country.

The development has left a huge gap in the finances of virtually all the states of the federation forcing most of them to seek alternative sources of revenue, if they must meet their various financial obligations. State governments were left with the choice of ensuring fiscal discipline aside taking decisive steps to improve their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, profile in order to surmount the obvious challenges.

 The Benue state government therefore had no option but to reposition the Benue Internal Revenue Service, BIRS, for optimum performance and in doing this, it went ahead to reorganize and reconstitute the board and leadership of the organization. The government also brought in a tax expert, Mrs. Mimi Adzape-Orubibi who shortly after her appointment about six months ago went immediately to work with a view to boosting the state’s IGR.

One of the new innovations of the board was the introduction of the Point of Sale, POS, devices in the collection of revenue across the state coupled with the introduction of a central tax and revenue collection system in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs of the state and appointment of tax consultants and agents.

With the introduction of the POS devises which comes with its inbuilt receipts, the former practice of issuing manual receipts to tax payers which provided avenue for tax collectors to fleece the government was effectively eliminated. Moreso the haphazard collection of revenue and taxes in the MDAs which before now provided a platform for   inherent fraud associated with some government officials was checkmated with the central tax and revenue collection system.

The policy entailed that government revenue was collected by BIRS staff and agents electronically and thereafter transferred to a central pool at the Accountant General’s office so as to ensure that all revenue leakages were virtually blocked. The new revenue drive also required that the commissioned agents of the board were given monthly targets on revenue collection, failing which the contracts would be terminated. Suffice it to state here that this new policy direction though laudable met some stiff challenges from some government officials and civil servants who were used to the old order and who felt that the new policy was an affront of some sort. Commenting on the issue, the Executive Chairman of the Board, Mrs. Orubibi said the innovation had boosted the revenue profile of the state but not without some resistance from the   MDAs who were averse to the order of change. She said, “we had challenges with the MDAs, when we introduced some innovation in tax collection, the reason being that some used to collect revenues and do not remit same to the coffers of government.  “On assumption of office, I introduced the use of the Point Of Sales, POS, device in the collection of taxes.

 Before now people printed their own receipts and diverted the monies. “But in accordance with the provisions of section 24(8)(a) BIRS law we are mandated to assess all taxable persons chargeable with tax in Benue state, while subsection (b) says we should collect, recover and pay all revenues into the consolidated revenue account of the state. “Section 12 (6)(8) of the same law is also explicit, which says that if the Board deems it necessary it will appoint consultants, agents and accountants to collect all revenue from all MDAs.

 It also   permits us to make these appointments in exclusion of the MDAs. It is explicit. So that was where we had issues. “The good thing is that we now operate a non cheque account. Once money is paid in, it is   automatically transferred into the Accountant General’s account. “Nobody is permitted to handle cash anymore. We have brought in a lot of changes. Before now the MDAs had numerous revenue accounts. What they were doing was that they pay into such accounts and withdraw at will.  “But when I came in, in line with section six of the Revenue Administrative Act of Benue State, which says we should close all unauthorised   revenue accounts of the MDAs,   I wrote the banks and the MDAs to close such accounts. “Though most of them didn’t find it funny, thank God we had the support of Governor Samuel Ortom because if we must instill tranparency and accountability in the handling of government revenue the law must be applied to the letter.

“The fact is that since the   introduction of these innovations we have been witnessing a steady growth in our IGR, not forgetting that the government has given us a monthly target of N1.5billion to complement the meagre monthly allocation from the federation account, and we are determind to meet that target.” “Happily the people of the state have keyed into concept and vision of the Governor, it is paying off because the successes we are recording is obviously a clear indication that the people believe in the steps the Governor has taken to   bring tangible development to the state.” Commenting recently on the issue, Governor Samuel Ortom said before the advent of his administration and the innovation the leadership of the BIRS introduced, the state’s IGR hovered around an average of N250million monthly. He said, “however, with the innovations we have in place, we are witnessing a steady growth in the IGR and today we are doing an averaging of N500million monthly and it is improving. “This has boosted the financial strength of the government that is why we will continue to support the BIRS because it plays a critically role in our quest to improve our revenue fortune in the face of dwindling allocation from the federation account. “In doing this, nothing would be done outside the provisions of the law; because as a government we will continue to ensure that our tax laws are designed and implemented with a human face.” the Governor said.

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