WCO Conducts Disaster Preparedness Training For LRA, Partners

WCO Conducts Disaster Preparedness Training For LRA, Partners

The World Customs Organization (WCO) through its Customs for Relief of Epidemic Diseases (C-RED) Project on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, kicked off a four-day training for Customs officers of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) as well as partners working in relief projects. The WCO C-RED Project is intended to assist Customs Administrations in West Africa to be better prepared to minimize the effects of regional epidemic diseases and natural disasters.

The project foresees to provide capacity building support to the beneficiary Customs Administrations (LRA one of them) to develop mechanisms, based on international best practices that guide the release of relief goods in case of the outbreak of a regional epidemic disease or a natural disaster, through national preparedness and regional cooperation. To do so, the project fosters regional experience sharing based on experiences in the Ebola crisis as well as national support in the development and implementation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) for the priority release of relief goods.

The training that occurred at the LRA headquarters was facilitated by project staff of the WCO. Participants brought together include representatives from the Ministry of Health, the National Disaster Agency, WHO, UNICEF and corporate organizations. Participants were taught the fundamentals and key strategies to develop SOPs which will serve as working documents for natural disaster management.

Speaking at the opening of the training, Customs Commissioner Saa Samoi welcomed the initiative, stating that it is important that customs operations are enhanced because during crisis and health emergencies customs activities encounter challenges. Commissioner Samoi added that it is important to enhance the skills and knowledge of customs officers to be prepared when disasters occur.

Also speaking at the opening of the training, the lead facilitator and Project Manager of WCO- RED Project, Eve Gerard, said the training is part of WCO capacity development to strengthen customs activities in West Africa. Ms. Gerard said’ it is important for the LRA to develop an SOP to enhance the operation of its customs activities in disasters periods’.  She noted that key goal of the training is to provide support to Customs Administration in West Africa that were mainly affected by the Ebola crisis.

In a related development, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), on 1 May 2018, held the final, in a series of two, national validation of the country’s draft Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) Strategy, with stakeholders proposing key recommendations. In a bid to review and solicit inputs to the draft Strategy, the LRA in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), supported by the Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Program-II, held a two-day validation exercise with stakeholders from five counties over the weekend in Gbarnga, Bong County.

Participants of the Gbarnga event were drawn from Bong, Nimba, Margibi, Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties. The first event, which took place in Buchanan City three weeks ago, brought together over 100 participants from Grand Bassa, Grand Kru, River Gee, Rivercess, Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Gedeh, Bomi, Monterrado and Grand Cape Mount Counties. Participants included local officials, members of the business community, representatives of the civil society and non-governmental organizations.

The event was intended to gather stakeholders’ inputs about strategic options proffered in the draft DRM strategy. The event was basically aimed at building consensus at the local level on the way forward for domestic resource mobilization for Liberia.  At the Gbarnga DRM Strategy review, the stakeholders recommended vital improvement in Liberia’s trade and industry sector to enhance revenue collection and facilitate national development.

They named the agricultural, fishery, tourism, financial, transport, and the telecommunications sectors among others as key areas needed to be prioritized by government in strengthening the country’s economy and holistically advance economic growth.

“Our government needs to lead the effort in empowering local framers by providing them loans, training, and supply of farming implements to enable them increase productivity and become self-reliant,” the participants pointed out.

The stakeholders believe that government must also take the lead in promoting the diversification of the economy through the formulation of proactive and sustainable programs to stimulate production to achieve the quest of increasing the tax net.

They described diversification of the economy as a very important pillar which will bring about more trade and investment opportunities. They specifically mentioned the introduction of mechanized farming and manufacturing, which they said will boost revenue collection and domestic resource mobilization.

The participants also suggested the need for a proper management mechanism of the natural resource sector by government by putting in place vigorous monitoring and evaluation processes to curtail under declaration and illicit financial flow in the sector which undermines revenue collection. They want the LRA intensify its awareness program with the aim to inform and educate all Liberians and the business sector about the importance of tax payment and its benefits to Liberia.

“In order for the LRA to expand the tax net, more people must be educated about the various taxes, payment processes and other relevant details in enlightening them about civil responsibilities,” they noted in a group recommendation.

In remarks, LRA Senior Technical Advisor on Domestic Resource Mobilization Momodou Foom praised the participants for making vital inputs during the DRM validation exercise and assured them that their recommendations will be complied to form part of the final strategy document.

The just ended DRM validation exercise is the result of four regional dialogues, which culminated into a National Revenue Symposium held in June 2017 on domestic resource mobilization, during which a document inclusive of plans and ideas on how to initiate a domestic resource mobilization strategy for Liberia was formulated. It is a continuation of ongoing efforts by the LRA and partners in support of a global crusade highlighting DRM as pivotal for African countries to finance the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Africa Action Agenda 2063.

It can be recalled that the LRA and partners recently held the first phase of National Domestic Resource Mobilization Strategy validation exercise in Buchanan, Grand Bassa and brought together stakeholders from ten counties.

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