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Africell wins GRA’s largest taxpayer award

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By Omar Bah

Telecom giant Africell has been named the largest taxpayer of 2023 at a ceremony held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on Saturday hosted by the Gambia Revenue Authority.

The company makes a return to this envious position after losing it to Ecobank last year after a four-year monopoly.

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The GRA Deputy Commissioner General, Essa Jallow, told The Standard yesterday that all awards are based on the timely filing and payment of taxes that are due to the state, but the largest taxpayer is the most celebrated because of its largest single contribution to the overall revenue mobilised by the authority.

When contacted for comments, Africell’s Chief Government Relations Officer (CGO), Musa Sise, said the telecom giant is very proud of the achievement, especially for winning the accolade for the fifth time.

“Imagine that we are paying over a billion dalasi per annum. This is a huge contribution to the Gambia’s economy, which is tax-based, so if we are able to singlehandedly provide that huge amount of money that goes to the development of the country, that is commendable, and I think that makes us one of the biggest players in our economy. It is a great honour,” he said.

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Award night

Addressing the gathering, Gambia Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Yankuba Darboe, said the day holds immense significance in GRA’s efforts to foster a cordial relationship with its esteemed taxpayers.

He said GRA continues to make great strides in its revenue collections, largely owing to its digitalization process and staff commitment.

“This remarkable achievement stands as evidence of the hard work, dedication, and commitment of each and every member of our hardworking team. This revenue would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our wonderful team and the support we received from key stakeholders, including the minister of finance, the president, and the board,” he added.

He said the success is paved by innovative reforms such as the digitalization of GRA’s tax collection systems and business processes.

“We are also in the process of introducing other reform initiatives, which include launching an integrated tax administration system (ITAS) to further streamline domestic tax collection to facilitate e-filing and e-payment of taxes, a digital weighbridge system at the seaport, fuel marking stem to curb illicit trade in petroleum products, a revenue assurance system for telecom services, IT solutions for rental income tax enhancement, and a smart invoicing system to digitalize VAT collection by providing sales data directly to our servers. All these reforms are aimed at enhancing efficiency, transparency, and convenience for our taxpayers. However, we acknowledge that our journey is not over,” he added.

He said GRA remains committed to continuous improvement and further expansion of their reform agenda.

“Together, we can achieve extraordinary things for our beloved country,” he said.

Also, addressing the taxpayers, President Adama Barrow said: “Your compliance is not just a matter of fulfilling your legal obligation; it shows the degree of your patriotism and commitment to nation-building. Therefore, your awards will thrive because they represent national honour. Do not view tax payments as a mere burden; instead, they are an investment in our collective wellbeing and future. It is the taxes that you pay that propel the development of our health sector, education, and infrastructure.”

He said his government will continue to work tirelessly to create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

“The basic fabric of our government infrastructure and services relies on the taxes you, the taxpayers, pay. It is your contribution that powers our engine, thus helping us to invest in vital national programmes to build infrastructure to create a brighter future for all Gambians. Let me seize the opportunity to thank the GRA for conceiving this laudable initiative and making it an annual event. It has no doubt promoted compliance,” he added.

He said the government has realised a 72 percent increase in tax revenue since he came to power in 2017, rising from D9.13 billion in 2017 to D15.79 billion in 2023.

“It is a reflection of the tireless efforts of the GRA board and revenue staff. It is important to note that this achievement has not come as the result of increasing taxes but as a result of increasing the tax base, which was made possible by the automation of our revenue collection systems. I express my profound gratitude to the GRA under the leadership of Commissioner General Yankuba Darboe,” he stated.

He said his government is also committed to automating all business processes to simplify trade and improve compliance.  

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