Participants at the TIWB-CI workshop mark it a Success

Buchanan, Liberia; April 11, 2024: The Tax Inspectors Without Borders for Criminal Investigations (TIWB-CI) program hosted by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) with support from UNDP for its partner stakeholders from across the government ministries and agencies closed on Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Buchanan Grand Bassa County with participants engaging in intensive group work sketching the Maturity model self-assessments.

The participants were split into 4 groups – each allocated a set of principles to evaluate. The groups presented their evaluation reports at the plenary session where the groups discussed the outcomes of their presentations, built consensus, and adopted a common set of priority recommendations arising from the workshop.

The outcomes of the assessment will be crucial for developing an action plan for a progressive improvement of Institutional Capacity as well as creating synergies within both internal and external partner law enforcement agencies.

“Liberia is not well off in technology with the emergence of different online businesses, crypto-currency and other technologies which people use sometimes to evade taxes,” said the Deputy Commissioner General for Naturalization of Liberia’s Immigration Services, Attorney N. Dickson R. Tamba.

Attorney Tamba added that the workshop has helped the participants identify challenges the government is faced with and how to tackle them collectively going forward. He said when government generates more taxes it can respond to the development needs of the country and its people.

Attorney Tamba is confident that the government will support the implementation of the recommendations made at the workshop as it is the government’s mandate and functionality to strengthen its regulations and laws. “The recommendations will benefit the government as they are about curbing tax crimes and the government needs the tax revenue to respond to the needs of the people including health, education, road infrastructures, and more,” noted Counsellor Tamba.

“The outcomes of the assessment will be crucial for developing an action plan for a progressive improvement on Institutional Capacity as well as creating synergies within both internal and external partner law enforcement agencies,” said the UNDP TIWB-CI expert- Ms. Olivia Okello the lead facilitator in the four-day workshop.

Okello added that the inter-agency working group is utilizing the OECD’s Tax Crime Investigation maturity model to evaluate LRA’s investigative capacity.

“The model recognizes the Task Force on Tax Crime (TFTC) Ten Global Principles as a reference guide to undertake the assessment, disaggregate the principles into indicative elements and sub-elements which we can also designate as parameters for assessment”, noted Okello.

Participants at the workshop shared sentiments that the workshop was educative and helpful in knowledge sharing as it unearthed new knowledge on how to deal with tax crimes. They said learning from the experiences of other countries such as Kenya was beneficial in analyzing how Liberia needs to improve.

In an interview, the LRA Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement Division Customs Department Attorney D. Blamo Kafo said the workshop has exposed participants to global principles on tax investigation. Attorney Kafo stressed the need to look deep into Liberian laws and see if it’s adequate to win the fight against tax crimes.

Commenting on why LRA specifically requested the “Maturity Self-Assessment Model”, Attorney Kafo noted that LRA had realized the challenges it faced since the fiscal investigation division was established that although it collects significant information that can be used to recover lost taxes or can help other law enforcement agencies to curb money laundering and other offenses, not much work has been achieved as not even a single person has been convicted.

He added that not much has either been achieved with inter-agencies driven taxes hence the workshop was of necessity for the agencies to strengthen their collaboration and work on recovering lost taxes.

Ms. Linda A. Woodson Kanneh is an Analyst Officer at the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA). She pointed out that the workshop helped her realize the importance of strengthening collaboration with other agencies and how to tackle common challenges they face in their daily work.

She said she is confident that with the willpower she has experienced in the workshop when the recommendations are implemented by the government authorities, it will be easier to fight money laundering and tax crime.

Speaking on the challenges that the Liberia National Police are faced with and how the knowledge gathered at the workshop will be helpful, the Liberia National Police Deputy Commissioner for Criminal Investigation, Anthony T. Blaye said, “Most often while investigating financial related issues we don’t go after tax crime due to limited capacity and we don’t have a legal framework or a body with the mandate to provide information related to tax crime. Therefore, from this workshop, we have listened to the diverse views of participants on how to succeed in our daily routines”.

In closing, UNDP National Economist Stanley Kamara commended the participants for their commitment and participation throughout the workshop and encouraged them to take further initiative to learn more about tax and financial investigation crime.

Kamara urged the participants to consider the workshop as the beginning of their learning journey in the field of tax and financial investigation crime and thanked all the agencies for sending representatives.

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