Dr. Ambita’a RAISES THE BAR OF TARABA’S IGR WITH TECHNOLOGY

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Dr. Ambita’a RAISES THE BAR OF TARABA’S IGR WITH TECHNOLOGY

By Ugo James

When Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku took over the mantle of leadership in the state, the first thing that was obviously on his mind was how he can revamp the internal revenue sources so as to cope with the high expectation of services delivery to the people. There was need to build infrastructure, hospital and educational institutions were in dire need of repair. The situation permeates all facets of the state’s economy, even as the Federal Allocation could not cater for these needs.

Therefore, another need aroused: building the capacity of Taraba State Internal Revenue Board, for effective and optimal execution of its mandate became a prime consideration. This could not be done without a competent person on the board’s helm of affairs. And Governor Ishaku dipped his hand in the reservoir of eminently qualified people and picked Dr. Siman S. Ambita’a as the Executive Chairman of the Taraba State Board of Internal Revenue. Ambita’a, a retired Permanent Secretary in the service of Taraba State took over the affairs of the Board in March, 2017. Since assumption of duty, the board is experiencing creative and technologically driven innovations, with its attendant increase in revenue for the state.

In January this year, a team of our reporters visited Dr. Siman S. Ambita’a in his office, where he unravels the underlining factors of his success story .

An enabling environment enhances performance. As a technocrat, Dr. Ambita’a was conscious of this fact. He therefore hit the ground running by putting structures that will beef up the security, revive water and power supply. He also provided or restored some electrical gadgets, including Televisions, fridges and Air conditioners, so that staff will be comfortable and put in their best. Restoration of internet and the organisation’s website, were some of the first things that he did before settling down for real business.

From an analogue method of operations, he repositioned the Board into a technologically driven platform, On this step, he explained:

“Along the line, I realized that the management of revenues, is supposed to be technologically driven… So we went into searching for partners that could drive that process. Some consultants were assigned, but at the time I took over, they were not operational. With the support of the His Excellency, we were able to identify a consultant known as the Bizz Desk Group Limited to partner with us and automate our tax processes and also to help in the management of revenue generation/ collection.

“In Taraba State, what is known as electronic Internally Generated Revenue solution (eIGRs,) was launched officially on the 12/12/2018. By the end of December, we were deployed to almost all the MDAs within Jalingo, Taraba State. And we have also taken route in some of our essential areas of operation, like collection of revenue on forestry products, farm produce and livestock. I’m happy to say, the process have being going on, even in my office I can monitor the collection and remittances and other aspects. We are still in the preliminary stages, preliminary in the sense that we only had that for three months. We are optimistic that by the end of January this year, all the MDAs in Taraba State would deploy the eIGR solution to all the places; so that our staff, in addition to the staff of the various MDAs, will be able to operate the system.”

He told our reporters.

Aside from the general taxes or revenue, the Board, as the Chairman revealed, has engaged a consultant, Fyento Integrated Logistics and Transport Services Limited. This consultant is engaged for managing Road Traffic and Motor Vehicle Administration in Taraba State. “We are completely automated in that aspect.” He assured.

These innovations have brought an increase in the state internally generated revenue profile. For example, in 2016 the revenue collection by the board was about N4. 5 Billion. By 2017, it rose to N5. 9 Billion. “As I’m talking you now, we have not finished the returns or the reconciliation of revenue for 2018, because we have to close over for the new year, before you go back to see what you have collected. By the budget that was given to us, we have already collected over 86%; that translated to over 5. 1 Billion. By the time we bring the resources that were gathered in December, which included the resources from the new technology that we adopted, we are optimistic that we will exceed the revenue collected in 2017.

“We are thinking of a situation where our collection this year should be able to exceed that of last year, if possible by more than a Billion. As an agency, the state government has apportioned our defence. We are thinking of N3. 6 billion. We are responsible for the revenue of the whole state, but we have some revenue attached to this agency, which the board is collecting directly. Last year’s budget that was given to this board, we exceeded by 5%. He told our reporters.

Beneath any success story there is an underlining stream of a challenge, and Dr Ambita’a’s case is no exception. “Revenue” he told our reporters, “do not come from a vacuum. You need to lay something, to be able to bring out something.” Government, he added, needs to create a conducive environment, by partnering effectively with stakeholders, small and large scale farmers, as well as facilitators of development like banks, international development agencies. Dr. Ambita’a is however relieved that Taraba State government is already towing this path. He cited the vegetable garden in Jalingo, which is producing Cucumber, vegetables, Tomatoes, sweet pepper, enhanced performance of the Mambilla Highland Beverages company, as well as some moribund companies which the state have reactivated, as a good sign for a solid IGR in the state.

The interaction did not end without a message to Taraba tax payers. “People should trust us and pay their tax. We are aware that when people are suspicious that the taxes, fines or the levies that they pay are not being channeled for the general good, they become very resistant. Eventually if His Excellency comes to power again, we will try to see if we can tie the taxes we are generating to specific developments, so that we can show to people, this is what we have done with the tax. Now, we are applying it to general development and people do not seem to appreciate very much. Otherwise, you will discover that even this millions or billions that we are generating here is going to the general development of Tarabans… By introducing technology and automation of our processes, we are trying to build this trust. Things done by human beings are bound to have issues of mistakes and leakages here and there. We are dealing with this situation by the use of devices, Android devices, POS and computer system, we call it electronic IGR solution.

“Again when people pay, they should collect receipt. All these multiple illegal collectors must be discouraged. We need the cooperation of the community to point out these ones that are collecting in the names of various organisations on our highways, some of which are illegal WV

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