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Why Parastatals should be Socially Responsible: the Case of NRA PDF Print E-mail
Business
Written by Ann Marie Dumbuya   
Friday, 10 February 2017 14:30

In Sierra Leone, the notion of corporate social responsibility has always been associated with the private sector. No wonder some people see the active involvement of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in corporate social activities as strange, and many have opined that a tax collecting body should not be engaged in corporate social responsibility activities.

However, the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on corporate image is immense, even for tax collecting bodies. The perception that tax collectors are monsters vigorously bent on collecting people's earnings with no care for the environment or the vulnerable in the community they operate is evolving. Indeed, many revenue authorities in Africa are today socially responsible.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) in an article in its website argues that "the nature of Revenue Collectors' mandate makes them the hill of the nation such that whatever they do is mirrored and echoed by many".

Therefore, the article continued, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority's corporate social responsibility programme is driven by the realisation that there are less fortunate members of society who cannot afford a decent meal or roof over their heads. It was further noted that since society has always given to ZIMRA through revenue collection, the institution should likewise support the social needs of society's less fortunate.

Other revenue authorities like the Ghana Revenue Authority, Rwanda Revenue Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority to name a few are adopting similar policies because it has been realised that a positive corporate image is vital in inculcating a positive taxpaying culture. Just explore their websites for proof.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is the "continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large". This in essence translates to what a company has to do to win and enjoy the goodwill and confidence of the community in which it operates. In short, demonstrating its human face.

The WBCSD considers CSR as vital to the long-term prosperity of any company and has identified several core values that it believes should be central to any CRS policy. They include employee and stakeholder relationship management, environmental protection, and community development.


It is now widely recognized that sustainable development cannot be achieved by government action alone. Around the world, big corporations are being looked upon to aid national development strides through corporate responsibility. In fact, the notion of corporate social responsibility has gone way beyond the private sector. Modern corporate governance models expect institution, both public and private to consider the interests and expectations of stakeholders in particular the society from which it operates.

This is why globally, many governments now stipulate that institutions, including state-owned enterprises must have corporate social responsibility programmes and make annual reports on corporate social contributions.

The question of whether CSR should be legislated or be left to the conscience and moral values of corporations has been the subject of cotemporary debate. Universally, many countries view CSR as an ethical and social obligation and not a legal commitment, or at least not entirely.  As such, most do not have specific CRS laws, although some have taken active steps to introduce policies or guidelines to promote better corporate behavior.

For instance, the European Union Green Paper for Corporate Social Responsibility noted that though the concept of corporate social responsibility is mainly driven by large corporations, socially responsible practices are vital for public and private enterprises as well as SMEs and co-operatives. It also stated that socially responsible companies will voluntarily make decisions to contribute to a better society by embedding corporate social responsibility values in their strategies and operations and endeavour to respect this commitment. Responsible companies, it also noted, do more than promote CSR.

They also support public policies that encourage sustainable development. In 2007, the Swedish Government which is seen as leading policy on CSR adopted some guidelines for external reporting by state-owned companies which included reports on corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. In India, the Companies Act, 2013, mandates companies to spend at least 2% of their net profits on CSR activities.

In West Africa, Ghana has a National Corporate Social Responsibility Policy with the creation of a Centre for Corporate Responsibility charged with mainstreaming corporate responsibility in the private, public and non-governmental sectors. Also, there exists a West African Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility which develops CSR strategy for large and small corporations in the West African sub-region. Additionally, some African countries like Ghana and Uganda annually organise CSR Excellence Awards to acknowledge CSR responsive companies and organizations.


In Sierra Leone, the implementation of a new model of assessing management practices in government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) called Performance Contracting now guides the discharge of social responsibility in the public sector. Performance Contracting was introduced by the government to encourage a more performance-oriented culture in the public sector.

The performance contracts signed between the President and CEOs of relevant MDAs serve as an evaluation tool through which the Government assesses the performance of MDAs on key outcomes mainly using the Performance Tracking Table (PTT). The PTT assesses key policies implemented annually such as improved innovations for service delivery, institutional reforms and capacity building, corporate governance and financial management, corporate social responsibility and social/climate issues, and effective contribution to the implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity.

This model has since been used to assess and rank MDAs state of affairs on crucial matters such as innovation and productivity, HR management, service delivery and customer satisfaction, and above all CSR contribution. Performance Excellence Awards are subsequently given to best performing institutions at the end of each year's review. It is clear that Government through the PTT is encouraging MDAs to align their CSR initiatives to the national development agenda. In fact, by recently grouping MDAs into sectors, Government is aiming for an integrated performance on CSR and desires MDAs to harness their CSR activities to prevent multiplicity of interventions targeting the same beneficiaries.

The NRA is among the few public enterprises in the country that has not only embedded corporate social responsibility values in its strategies and operations, but has also endeavoured to respect this commitment.

The NRA, according to the Director of Finance Abdulai Conteh has a corporate responsibility policy approved by the board of directors. He said this policy sets the tone at the top regarding transparency and anti-corruption measures, environmental protection and employee and stakeholder relationship management. Mr. Conteh stated that the Code of Corporate Social Responsibility formulate goals for CSR programmess covering education, environment and healthcare. He said CSR is integrated in NRA's business operations to maximise the Authority's overall impact on society and its taxpayers.

Mr. Conteh explains that since NRA collects revenue on behalf of the State, all taxes collected are directly deposited into the country's Consolidated Revenue Fund through transit banks. He said the NRA however is entitled to a 3 percent commission of total collection from Government through the Ministry of Finance according to the NRA Act, 2002. It is this money that NRA uses to meet operational costs.  He said due to the unwavering commitment to its corporate social responsibility, the Authority annually set aside a portion of its budget to support charity causes and fund community development initiatives for the benefit of vulnerable communities.

"Our CRS Policy is pro-poor and goes way beyond charity and philanthropy. Our aim is to contribute to the Government Agenda for Prosperity by taking prosperity to people. Most times we do not use our resources to fund CRS initiatives; we instead lobby well-meaning individuals and organizations to support the communities we have identified. For instance, the seed money for the Trust Fund was raised from staff contributions and that of the Board.

We were able to provide solar energy supply in our adopted village, Gbomsamba from charitable donations by private individuals and the Ministry of Energy through the brilliant lobbying skills of the Commissioner-General. Also, we are constructing a water well with some support from SALWACO while engaging the Ministry of Agriculture on food security and livelihood support programmes for the village".

The case of the NRA as a socially responsible corporate entity is exceptional and worth emulating. Under the leadership of Madam Haja Kallah-Kamara, the NRA is revolutionalising the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Sierra Leone.  CSR has always been associated with the private sector, but under her watch, the NRA has adopted a grassroots and community-based approach to corporate social responsibility that goes beyond philanthropy to sustainable community development.

NRA supported the fight against Ebola and in September 2014 established the Ebola Health Workers Victim Family Trust Fund to provide financial support to the immediate families of health workers that lost their lives whilst fighting against the Ebola outbreak in the country. On December 20, 2016, NRA disbursed Le525 million to beneficiaries of the Ebola Trust Fund; the sum of Le5million each was given to 105 beneficiaries.

In 2013, it adopted Gbomsamba, a village about 120kms from Freetown in the Port Loko district to implement a development plan covering education, healthcare, agriculture, and women and youth empowerment. NRA has refurbished the primary and junior secondary schools in the village and provided basic school supplies to pupils. It has also refurbished crumbing houses and has almost completed the construction of a 5-classroom secondary school which has provisions for a library and computer school.

NRA supports Girl Child Education through scholarships, and tertiary education through the provision of transportation. The two main universities in the country: Fourah Bay College and Njala University have all benefited from this policy.

According to the Director of Finance, NRA has recently launched a 'Catch Them Young Campaign' which seeks to capture the interest of young people, it future taxpayers. This initiate is indeed commendable, and the educational sector would welcome such charitable deeds.

Like Dr Benias Mapepeta argues in an article on the impact of corporate social responsibility on corporate image "the basic idea of sustainability is to be cognitive of future generations and their benefits in the operational environment of today".

 

Editorial

2016 Global Peace Conference to be held in Freetown---as IPRA 50th Birthday confab ends in Istanbul

 

The 26th biennal conference of the Internatonal Peace Research Association (IPRA) is billed to take place in  Freetown, Sierra Leone in November 2016, marking the second time Africa has hosted the conference since the founding of IPRA in 1964. This was announced following the re-election of  the two IPRA Secretaries-general, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (pictured) and Dr Nesrin Kenar, who co-ordinated the 25th  IPRA conference in Turkey,  at the organisation’s administrative meeting on August 14 during the 25th  IPRA  conference in Istanbul  to serve a second term of two years.

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Four illegal fishing cases found in Sierra Leone in four days

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, April 20, 2017/ -- Four illegal fishing cases have been found during a joint surveillance mission conducted by Greenpeace (www.Greenpeace.org/Africa/en) and Sierra Leone fishery authorities. Two Chinese vessels and one Korean vessel have been arrested for infringements of Sierra Leone fishing legislation, including possessing or using illegal fishing nets on board, no visible marking and a lack of required paperwork, including log books and authorisation for unloading catch. Fishing authorities ordered the vessels to return to Freetown port for further investigation. A fourth vessel, owned by an Italian company, was found with four kilograms of shark fins on board. Though not illegal under Sierra Leonean laws, this is a clear violation of European Union (EU) fishing rules. This boat’s case will be taken further with relevant EU authorities.

In addition, more than 70 bags of shark carcasses were found on one of the Chinese vessels.

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Media News

Press Freedom under Siege in West Africa: 30 Media Workers Arrested in 38 Days

The 30 victims, made up of 15 journalists and 15 media technicians, were arrested, detained and/or assaulted in 10 separate incidents in four countries namely Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Togo. Nigeria recorded six incidents, Cote d’Ivoire recorded two incidents while Guinea and Togo recorded an incident each.

In Nigeria, seven journalists were arrested and detained during the period. In Cote d’Ivoire, six journalists were arrested and detained in a single incident while one journalist each was affected in Guinea and Togo, bringing the total number of journalists affected to 15. In respect of the other media workers, nine staff of a newspaper printing firm were arrested in single incident. In Cote d’Ivoire, six technicians working with the state-owned television station were also arrested in a single incident.

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Commentary

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The Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has overwhelmingly approved the appointment of Mr Melron Nicol-Wilson as new Ombudsman, on Tuesday April 11, 2017. This follows him being named by H.E President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma as the replacement to Justice Edmond Cowan - a long-standing legal icon, who now chairs the Sierra Leone Constitutional Review Committee.

A man whose action speaks louder than words, Mr Nicol-Wilson has been appointed as new Ombudsman for Sierra Leone, a position reserved for high-profile people, who are well-respected and with unblemished character. Mr Nicol-Wilson has the typical pedigree of an Ombudsman, best known both in Sierra Leone and internationally as a champion for justice and human rights.  

The Parliament’s decision to approve Mr Nicol-Wilson was anticipated, as the high-profile human rights lawyer emerged unscathed from an exchange of views with Members of Parliament.

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(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely the thoughts of the author)

Election in any democratic setting, include the enjoyment of those rights that will elicit the full participation of individuals in determining the political life of his/her country. An election is a decision making process through which eligible citizens(those who have reached the age of majority, 18 years and above and with sound mind) freely choose their leaders through the ballot box to hold public offices for a specified term.

Generally, people vote with the expectation that the office holders would represent their communitiesand or countries best interest.  Elections are viewed as a central feature of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. Essentially, election is a testimony to peoples’ sovereignty and that ought to be respected and the process must be credible, otherwise there will be challenge with regards the acceptance of the result.

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News - Press Release

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Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader of the House who moved the motion explained the importance of the Finance Bill that it provides for the sources of revenue for Government in respect of taxation. She furthered that the pre-legislative hearing will clearly explain the reductions, additions, and significant changes that have been included in the Finance Act of 2017 to Members of Parliament, who will better articulate issues connected thereto during the course of the debate.
The Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, SBB Dumbuya said that “judging from the significance of the Bill, it should be preceded by a pre-legislative briefing” as per the dictates of parliamentary practices and procedures.
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Society -Local News

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On Sunday 26 March 2017, three very close family members were 'laid to rest' at a Thanksgiving and Memorial service held at the King Memorial United Methodist Church in Freetown. That service celebrated memories of the following family members: Mrs Lydia Sesay nee Yormah (my elder sister), her son Rtd. Captain Alimamy Sesay, and Madame Gbonu Yormah nee Gbloh. 

Although these departed loved ones had died and were interred several years ago in my absence that thanksgiving service enabled me to truly emotionally connect with their demise. For one of the deceased the circumstances of his death did not permit us to give him a fitting funeral so to me that service served as his fitting, albeit belated, funeral service. That event has now freed me from the encumbrances that had prevented me for almost 19 years to put my thoughts about his demise on paper. This piece therefore serves as a tribute to his memory.

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PRESS RELEASE: Rural Renewable Energy Project Conducts Installation Training

FREETOWN, 19 April 2017: UNOPS Sierra Leone is hosting a training for selected installation companies, in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, the President’s Recovery Priorities (PRP) programme and United Kingdom Government’s Department for International Development (DFID – also known as ‘UK Aid’).

The theoretical aspect of the training runs from 18th to 20thApril at the Golden Tulip Hotel, followed by 14 days of on-the-job sessionsin Petifu and Conakry Dee communities, in Port Loko District.ASACO, the supplier of the solar equipment, is providing the training facilitators and installation tools.

Participants are mainly Sierra Leonean engineers from Barefoot Women Solar Engineers Association (BWSEA),Frontier Business Solutions (FBS) and APTECH Africa Limited. Training contents include, photovoltaic (PV) system basics, types of solar systems, arrays and connections, project safety and guidance on using the installation checklists.

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Politics

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Former elected Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana left Freetown International Airport, Lungi late afternoon Wednesday April 19, 2017 onboard Kenya Airways on an "Emergency Travel Certificate",  en route to Abuja, Nigeria on or about April 23/24, 2017 for the hearing of his petition filed on October 24, 2016 in the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, "seeking an enforcement of his fundamental Human Rights arising from his unconstitutional removal from office, and for further orders contained in the application."
 
"This matter has been set down for hearing by the Court for April 26, 2017."
 
According to a spokesman for the Sam Sumana family Matthias Bendu who was with Sam Sumana at the airport until the aircraft was airborne because of advanced information reaching the family that there would be some problem awaiting Sam Sumana at the airport, Matthias Bendu told this Writer on the cellphone from the airport that Sam Sumana "was detained by Immigration Officers at the airport for more than thirty minutes  after the aircraft  landed, and it was due to the intervention of the Inspector General of Police Francis Munu who told the immigration Officers that Sam Sumana had not committed any crime and must be allowed to travel".
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