Appointed on 1st August 2021, the new Commissioner General of Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), Chanda Makgolo, says they start the new year with a heightened sense of urgency and conviction that they will enhance revenue collection and do a lot more to improve domestic revenue mobilisation to ensure that this country continues to develop and sustain its citizens.
Makgolo, whose family name means hundreds, was speaking to a throng of media house editors on Monday this week. She joins BURS at a critical time when the fiscal position of the country requires new measures to transform the agency for efficiency. Her plan to intensify tax revenue collection is motivated not only by the devastation brought by COVID-19 but by Botswana’s high fiscal deficit as well as what has been described as an unsustainable fiscal path by Makgolo’s superiors at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
First it was the former finance minister Dr Thapelo Matsheka and his successor, Peggy Serame. They both at different times have emphasised the need to supplement state revenues through domestic revenue mobilisation, which simply means turning to the households to mobilise tax income. This is done through enforced collection of levies and taxes, as well as increasing some of them.
But the government has been adamant that domestic revenue mobilisation should not be seen as taxing people more but mobilising the necessary revenue to be able to sustain and develop the country for the benefit of everyone.
Armed with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Botswana and post-graduate professional training in Public Finance Management from the National Institute of Financial Management in India, Makgolo has the right credentials and is convincing about being determined to enforce such revenue mobilisation. She is also a Senior Executive Fellow of the Harvard Kennedy School – Cambridge, USA.
Like her principals at the ministry, she is worried by unending budget deficits that are financed through foreign reserves and debt. She is resolute about restoring fiscal sustainability through intensifying collections. “I am excited to be able to share with you our commitment to pursue this agenda and share some points from this roadmap and my aspirations to take this organisation to greater heights,” the first-ever female Commissioner General BURS told the editors gathered.
Top of her agenda is to address ICT systems related challenges. “As many of you know, there has been a public outcry regarding BURS ICT systems. Yes, it is an undeniable fact that our new system, dubbed Lekgetho Live, has been experiencing some challenges and is inhibiting tax compliance,” Makgolo confessed.
In a nutshell, she and her team have decided to carry out an independent audit of BURS ICT systems aimed at improving their efficiency and effectiveness. She added that since BURS is a service-oriented organisation, her second most important priority is to improve service delivery. As she speaks about improving efficiency and service delivery, the veteran accountant exudes confidence that must stem from her more than 30 years at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development where she rose to the position of Deputy Accountant General
A transformational leader, she gained invaluable experience and insight into public financial management and corporate governance in that period. She told the editors gathered that her leadership at BURS will entail timely assistance of customers, timely resolution of their complaints and improving BURS’s core values of botho and Integrity as the agency interacts with clients. “In an effort to be accessible to our clientele as much as possible, we have created an email platform dubbed “TelltheCG@burs.org.bw” for the public to give feedback on our service delivery or any of the issues they have and require assistance with,” she noted.
SERAME EXTENDS RELIEF TO TAXPAYERS
In a related development, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame, has extended tax amnesty from 31 December 2021 to 30 June 2022 to allow for more tax payers to benefit from the dispensation. recognition of difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,
Under this dispensation, taxpayers in arrears will be granted relief when they settle the principal amount of debt owed (income tax and VAT) and BURS will in turn write off the interest and penalties owed. Taxes covered by the amnesty include Corporate Income Tax, Personal Income Tax, Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Other Withholding Taxes (OWHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT).
Taxpayers are urged to take advantage of the amnesty to clear their tax liabilities and place themselves in good standing with BURS in the course of this dispensation that was devised in recognition of difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
BURS TO CELEBRATE CUSTOMS DAY
Meanwhile, BURS will celebrate International Customs Day (ICD) on 26 January. This day is celebrated by customs administrations of World Customs Organisation (WCO) Members across the globe every year on the same date. The purpose is to commemorate the vital role of customs administrations and stakeholder agencies in facilitating seamless movements of goods and services across international borders.
It also allows customs administrations to showcase efforts made through initiatives geared at providing an enhanced flow of goods along the global supply chain. This year’s theme is “Scaling up Customs Digital Transformation by Embracing a Data Culture and Building a Data Ecosystem.”