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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

Press Release : IPRA 2016 Conference Successfully Concludes

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development ‘in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.  

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The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on the request of the Management of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB) on Thursday 20th July, 2017 commenced anti- bribery and anti-corruption training with staff of the Bank.

The training which was held in the Bank's Conference Room 9th Floor, Christian Smith Building 29/31 Siaka Stevens Street, Freetown attracted over twenty members of the Executive Management.

Addressing colleagues, the Managing Director, SLCB, Idrissa Aloma Kamara disclosed that the Bank has integrated into the Bank's operations anti-corruption measures, such as the development of anti-corruption policy, anti-graft messages inscribed on Bank Statements and sensitization of staff on the dangers of corruption. With all these, the MD stated, it is the view of the Bank that the ACC which is the statutory body responsible for the campaign against corruption be brought in, to provide awareness training on anti-bribery issues for an efficient and effective banking system.

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Two very respected and veteran Journalists who are in the United States of America for various reasons have called on Sierra Leone’s Amr. Bockari Kortu Stevens not only to appreciate the work of the Embassy, but also to pay courtesy as protocol demands.

Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson, former Lecturer Fourah Bay College, former Director of Information Ministry of Information and Communications, Former Director Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), Former Chairman Independent Media Commission (IMC) and stringer French News Agency  etc. is on vacation and Mr. Cyril Juxon Smith Director Information and Communications House of Parliament, former Acting Director General Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and former UNESCO Media Consultant  is in the United States of America to attend the funeral of his father.

Speaking at the Ambassador’s residence on 4821 Colorado Avenue, Washington DC  Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson said “Thank  you Amr. Stevens for accommodating us in the middle of your tight schedule, and also to discuss with us in a homely spirit.

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A PASSIONATE LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT:  44TH EDITION

REVIEWING THE JUNE 2017 ECOWAS SUMMIT
 Your Excellency Sir,
 It’s been six months since I subscribed to my usual publications of this piece. And this is primarily because I have been out of the country for the entire period, and as such would not normally objectively tender a subscription. I do apologize to my readers for this. So having being in Monrovia, Liberia for the recently concluded ECOWAS Summit, I would like to do some analysis on such a historic august body and gathering of this sub-Saharan/West African region.
 
In resume, among other crucial achievements, ECOWAS, through its military apparatus, ECOMOG, played very sacrificial and invaluable roles in bringing peace, security and democratic governance to both Sierra Leone and Liberia during their past civil wars, and most recently ensuring that the Gambian people’s democratic change of government from the notorious dictatorial twenty seven years regime of Yaya Jarmeh, to the current government of President Adama Barrow, through their tactical robust intervention, overseen by President Helen JohnsonSirleaf of Liberia and other ECOWAS Presidents/actors, was enforced. Furthermore, ECOWAS has also spearheaded the enactment of several socio-political, advocacy and economic treaties in the sub region.
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Day in day out they are insulting each other.They are using all sorts of vulgar languages against each other. And even their own highly respected president in the world, President Ernest Bai Koroma they are insulting him openly. Therefore, it is an open secret that many Sierra Leoneans are not well cultured.

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Ms. Browne wants the Board to hold outreach events in the village to educate the people on issues of law relating to domestic violence, gender, women’s rights, redress mechanisms and support services for victims.

‘We want to benefit from the Legal Aid Board’s Legal Empowerment Programme because there is an urgent need for one in the community,’ Ms. Browne told the Executive Director of the Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles on the phone. ‘The situation is desperate. I am afraid if you do not come in now the situation could spiral out of control.’

The call follows series of referral of victims of domestic violence to the Legal Aid Board office in Freetown. The latest victim sent to the Board is one Baindu who was battered by her boyfriend Borbor Abu in the presence of their one year old son.

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On  21st July ,2017 at a handing over ceremony held at Ogoo Farm in Freetown, China-Aid Agricultural Technical Cooperation Project Team handed agricultural materials to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS). 

The items include seed rice, maize, agro chemicals, fertilizer, pesticides and power tillers for farmers within the western area district. Dignitaries present included The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food security Prof. Monty Jones and his entourage ,  Mr Shen Xiaokai, the Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, the District agricultural officer, the Chinese technical team, National federation of farmers Sierra Leone representative and lot of farmers in the western Area.

During his statement, Mr Shen said for over 40 years China has been fulfilling its commitment to Sierra Leone with regard the agricultural technical cooperation project.

He said China will continue to assist Sierra Leone in its developmental strides by providing technical support and assistance and by also providing training to help develop the human resource capacity of the workforce.

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30 Staff of the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development will go China for Seminar on Economic Planning

Thirty (30) staff of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development will depart the shore of Freetown to China on 14th August 2017. The purpose of their trip is to attend a seminar on Medium and Long-Term Economic planning for Sierra Leone. The National Development and Reform Commission of China will organize the seminar from 16th August to 7th September 2017 in the capital city of Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

The Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Freetown, Mr. Shen Xiaokai met with the 30 participants at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) on 2rd August 2017. In his remarks he told the participants that in December 2016, His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Momodu Kargbo visited China, where they had high level bilateral meetings with Chinese Government Officials. 

He said this seminar is as a result of those meetings. “When China makes a commitment, China will fulfil it” he reiterated. He said The Ministry of Finance is one of the most important ministries in this country, therefore this seminar was designed specifically to meet the needs of the ministry.

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News from China, June 28th: Youth Affairs Minister addresses 2017 Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation in Capacity Development in Beijing, China
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Hon. Bai Mamoud Bangura spoke on Wednesday, 28th June, 2017, at the start of the week long Ministerial Workshop on International Cooperation, which has brought together participants from various countries, including eight (8) from Sierra Leone.
 
According to minister Bangura, in line with the spirit of friendship and cooperation, the event could serve as an opportunity to jointly define new strategic directions in Sierra Leone’s ties with China and in opening up another episode of friendship and cooperation between the two.
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