MDAs most recalcitrant debtors
…as they make up 80 percent of GRA debt
Of debt owed the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), at least 80 percent is in the hands of Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs), Mrs. Comfort Boohene-Osafo, Commissioner, Domestic Tax Revenue Division (DTRD) of the Authority has disclosed.
“Our worry mainly is the institutional debt. At least 80 percent of our debt is from MDAs and these have been on our books for quite some time; they are very aged. But it does not stop us from finding ways and means of collecting this debt.
“Apart from recalcitrant debtors, we also have institutional debtors that we need to collect from to be able to meet our target for the last quarter,” said Mrs. Boohene-Osafo at a joint GRA and Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) Debt Management sensitisation workshop in Accra.
The workshop was to discuss not only the way forward but also the rules to ensure smooth operations. GRA management and EOCO’s top management at the beginning of the year came together and decided to clear the backlog or outstanding debt, especially with recalcitrant debtors.
Mrs. Boohene-Osafo said: “The International Monetary Fund was in the country over last three weeks and it was worried about our debt stock. What you and I can do is help assist government to clear the domestic debt so as to move this nation forward”.
She added: “We are in the third quarter and we all know our debt status in our various offices. “The last quarter of the year is our season, so we are hopeful that all of us will corporate and bring our minds to the table and help get a solution for collecting the outstanding debt.
“We are hopeful that before the end of December we will clear our table of debt outstanding.
“Some debt are so huge that we are magnanimous enough to reschedule, but that does not stop us strategizing; if we reschedule we do not want any more bounced cheques, there are ways and means of collecting this debt — the final is distress action — but we can take them to court, which, unfortunately, can take forever.”
Mr. George Blankson, Commissioner-General GRA, explained that the partnership — which has approval from the highest level of government, is to enable the GRA attain its goal of generating enough revenue for the state and also find ways of dealing with debtors that have long been on the Authority’s books.
Mr. Blankson appealed for staff to approach the exercise with dedication to achieve maximum results, adding that the exercise will not aim at inflicting pain on any taxpayer or institution.
“GRA attaches a lot of importance to this collaboration and will use the laws at hand to deal with the institutions to collect the debt owed it.
“We are the one seeking the assistance of EOCO in attainment of our mandate as a revenue mobilisation institution, and we are grateful to EOCO for agreeing to partner with us in this enterprise,” he said.
He said EOCO officials have shown keenness and commitment that have won the approval and commitment of the GRA management, adding that “we need to approach this task with all seriousness to its execution.
“In the past EOCO has supported us, but this is the first time that we are organising this collaboration in a more formalised and structured way, hence bringing all our managers and EOCO managers together; the objective is for us to not only define the way forward and establish rules of engagement between the two in performing the common task of going after debtors and also ensuring tax compliance, but it also for us to engage with each other, understand one another, and be able to corporate better.
“I assure taxpayers that this exercise is not aimed at inflicting any pain on any taxpayer, we are only to ensure that there is compliance to the tax laws of the country, and that taxpayers pay what is expected of them and follow due processes and procedures in carrying out the task of tax compliance — which is an obligation imposed by the constitution and is found in every jurisdiction,” Mr. Blankson said.
Mr. Biadela Mortey Akpadzi, Executive Director, EOCO, said his office will work in close collaboration with the GRA to help retrieve taxes owed the state.
He said the cooperation must not be seen as EOCO taking over functions of the GRA, but as a collective activity to bring the state necessary revenue for development.
Mr. Akpadzi said EOCO staff will abide by strict conduct and work in collaboration with the staff of the GRA to clear the backlog of debts on the books.
“If anybody thinks it’s a nine-day wonder, then it’s a lie; the debtors must wait and see,” he stated.