Mr. Bunmi Alade is the Acting Chairman of Ondo State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR). In that position, he presides over the effort of the Government to improve the revenue profile in view of the dwindling allocation from the Federation Account.
In this interview with KAYODE CROWN in his Akure office, he spoke of the renewed drive of the Akeredolu-led government to ensure that the IGR improves towards making the State financially self sustaining.
Tell us your background
I read Accounting. I have HND in Accounting, B.Sc in Accounting and Masters in Business Administration. And I belong to so many professional bodies. I am a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, fellow of the Finance and Control Institute of Nigeria. I am a member of the Nigeria Institute of Management, Nigeria Institute of Entrepreneurs etc.
I started my career in the public service as a Local Government Accountant and I was once an auditor in the local government before I came to the Board of Internal Revenue in year 2004 after the restructuring of the board in which case I was brought in as a Deputy Director in Grade Level 15 in 2004.
In 2008, I was promoted to the rank of a Director. Since then I have been working here. I was once an Acting Chairman of the board in 2009 before the chairman was brought in.
I have served in various committees during the Agagu and Mimiko administrations.
I was a member of Road Map to Progress in Ondo State, and thereafter I was a member of the National Rolling Plan Committee in Ondo State.
When it comes to the work of the Board of Internal Revenue, what level of cooperation do you want from the people as a whole?
Let’s thank God for the height achieved so far, but I must tell you, there are lot of potentials in Ondo State that are supposed to drive IGR but unfortunately the past governments did not have the political will to drive IGR.
Most of the time when we do comparative analysis with our neighboring states, we continually see that we fall short of the desired expectation in IGR. In a situation where the Board of Internal Revenue is instructed not to go out and collect, whereas in some other places, government put in some mechanisms that will allow each and every individual to pay.
That has been a major gap. However, presently we are trying to map out strategies to see the possibilities of shoring up our revenue base.
Now there is a drop in the oil production, drop in the expected production quota for every country, the federal revenue has really gone down. The best thing is for all states to look inwards and Ondo State cannot be an exception.
The initiative of the present government to really shore up revenue collection in the state is a step in the right direction.
The government has realised that it is the number one driver of revenue. Mr. Governor has taken the bull by the horn to bring in a consultant to help us drive the IGR. We have already engaged a consultant and that is CSDC.
The governor knows that we are not yet there and we need experts to collaborate with us to drive IGR. That is a major step. The consultant will be paid commission based on their performance.
This makes it a performance-driven initiative. They won’t go about it like civil service because they will be remunerated based on performance.
In neighbouring states, it is a law that there must be evidence of tax payment before you can enjoy some government patronage, benefit. In some states, you cannot see the governor until you show the certificate of tax clearance.
But in Ondo State nobody asks question. Thank God for the House of Assembly, the commissioner designates during screening were asked to provide evidence of tax payment. The law says you should provide tax clearance where you can enjoy benefits from the government.
We are already sensitising the ministries to ensure that they ask for evidence of tax payment from the members of the public they engage with.
By the time the system is automated, leakages will be to the barest minimal, all things being equal.
We are also putting enforcement machineries in place. Very soon we will have more revenue courts where offenders can be prosecuted.
Revenue courts are not like the normal courts where you can continue to seek for adjournment for years.
Abide by the law and if you don’t, the law provides specific penalties. We will continue to talk to the judiciary and we are sure it will see the light of the day.
Regarding the autonomy of the board, what needs to be done to ensure that happens?
For global best practices, the Board of Internal Revenue should be an autonomous body which will run outside the norms of the civil service. The civil service is a bureaucratic system. But you can’t compare the workings of a banking system with that of a civil service.
Do we need a new law for the Board?
The law would say the Board is an autonomous body and would be run as specified. It will have a commission, a percentage on whatever that is generated to do its funding.
Unlike now, for us to get approval on what we are going to spend money on, we have to follow the bureaucratic procedure of writing to the Commissioner, Head of service, to Mr. Governor.
Once we are autonomous, there will be a Board that will handle things. Once a particular percentage is given as due of the Board, it is just a matter of transferring the percentage to the purse for the running of the agency. Now, compare that with the bureaucracy involved in writing for approval.
Also, whether government pays or does not pay salaries, we still go to work because we have a target we are pursuing.
In the public service, how many of them have key performance indicators (KPI)? There is none. Here we have the target but the remuneration does not go in line with that.
Here we talk of figures. It is the figure that you generate, that is in the bank that people talk about. Bearing that in mind, you see that being autonomous is just the best thing.
In normal civil service, it is after you have spent three or four years as the case may be, that you get promoted. But if it is an autonomous body, your promotion will be based on performance, it is what you contribute that will earn you promotion; it is not because you have spent donkey years. In the banks, no matter how pretty you are, it is the figure that will count.