President John Evans Atta Mills on Tuesday called on the nation’s revenue collection agencies to increase their efforts at revenue mobilisation and arrest the vast leakage in the tax system.
He said accelerated national development rests on adequate revenue mobilisation and cautioned revenue officials against smuggling, undervaluation and collusion.
President Mills gave the reminder when he paid unannounced visits to three separate revenue collection agencies, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, in Accra.
The visits took him to the Value Added Tax Service, Internal Revenue Service and the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS).
The President commended the revenue agencies for their effort but emphasised that far too many people were escaping the net.
This, he said, called for the revenue officials to comb the entire country and ensure that people honoured their tax obligations without any fear, and also enforce the tax laws.
President Mills expressed the hope that they would do better to help Government to build a sound economy, to provide a better life for all within Government’s agenda of building a Better Ghana.
At the Internal Revenue Service, where the President was once Commissioner before assuming the role of Vice President in 1997, President Mills commended the Service for exceeding its revenue target last year, but urged them not to spare anybody who evades tax.
“If you have to collect twice the revenue you had last year, do so,” President Mills said, while assuring them of Government support and calling for more commitment to increase the level of revenue mobilisation.
At CEPS, President Mills was acknowledged as the first sitting President to have visited the Service.
He condemned in no uncertain terms, acts of collusion and blatant smuggling by some CEPS officials at the nations’ borders, stating that he had hard evidence of CEPS official in uniform helping people to smuggle cocoa.
That case, the President said, was not isolated and called on the Service to weed out the bad nuts among them to redeem its good name and image.
President Mills said some people had rather developed convenient amnesia and tended to forget the very unhealthy state of the economy the Government inherited but said, however, that Government was beginning to make a headway in stabilising the economy.
On what he described as the unhealthy and unwarranted criticisms from certain quarters about the perceived slow pace of Government performance, he noted that the most vociferous were among the tax evaders, those who sought favours from revenue officials and even use the names of top Government officials to avoid their tax obligations.
President Mills urged CEPS officials to do self introspection and suggested that the Service organised public fora to seek views as a way of improving its performance. “I tell you there will not be a good story to tell.”
He called on the Service to live up to expectation and help Government to mobilize revenue.
Mr Isaac Apronti, Deputy Commissioner of CEPS in Charge of Research and Monitoring, said the Service was doing its best in spite of its constraints.
Mr Apronti said despite fluctuations in customs revenue over the past year, there was a big collection of GHc10.3 million as at the first of the current month of April.
Mr Apronti described last year as a challenging one, but assured the President, saying “You’ll smile the next time you come here”.
At the Ministry of Finance, President Mills commended the staff for their work and elicited harder work to build on the macro economic gains achieved in the past year.
He observed that no nation was able to achieve any big success overnight.
President Mills said the Government would not be distracted by unfair criticism and attempts to change the facts on the ground.
“Government would rather remain committed to the sacred duty and responsibility entrusted to it to build a Better Ghana”, he said and expressed strong conviction of divine support to carry out the mandate.
Dr Kwabena Dufuor, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said the nation was now enjoying stability and that what was now needed was a push for growth.