It is amazing how things are changing for good at the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) under the leadership of Mr. Muhammad Nami. Recall that soon after he assumed office, he did not mince words by declaring that he would return to the staff the Service functions hitherto given to Consultants. Six months down the line, it can be confidently reported that he has made good his promise, especially in the use of the ICT staff for the deployment of technology infrastructure to drive TCC issuance to taxpayers.
Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC) is very critical to the operations of both the Service and the taxpayers. Once a taxpayer pays his tax the Service is required by law to issue him with a tax clearance certificate which is a clean bill of health for him to continue to do his business for the current year. Without this certification a taxpayer can not confidently seek and execute contract anywhere. On its part, the Service issues the certificate as a statutory duty without which it risks court litigation by a diligent taxpayer. So the tax clearance certificate engenders a symbiotic process that mutually benefits both sides. That is why the Management of FIRS ably led by Mr. Muhammad Nami, having understood the critical nature of the issuance of the TCC, did not waste time in putting machinery in place towards achieving effective issuance process.
Hitherto, the process was very slow making it difficult to issue TCC to taxpayers. This had compounded the ease of doing business. The platform on which the TCCs were generated before now had constituted some needless challenges. Despite the sluggish nature of the issuance process, the Service paid handsomely for poor service. Yet the platform has no means of validating information with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) resulting in de-linkage between the Service and the taxpayers. This means that the platform had a ratio of 1:10 problem solving solution which greatly impeded the operations of the Service. By this token, the Service suffered huge losses of taxes because it took taxpayers several months to get their TCCs processed. But because of personal interest it was allowed to run for so long in spite of complaints from staff and taxpayers alike.
It is as a result of this that Mr. Nami directed the ICT department to evolve an in-house alternative platform in line with his goal of harnessing internal human resources to achieve his mission. This was immediately put to effect as the ICT department rose to the challenge. The newly developed in-house solution is currently proving to be more effective in the issuance of TCCs. It was developed free of charge and patented by the staff. This novel platform is different from the former one in many respects. It includes taxpayer’s email address and other login credentials for seamless operations and control. It accommodates many login for one taxpayer; and it is also compliant with smartphones. It has the capacity to accommodate about 800 users concurrently. Two weeks after its deployment on 1st June, 2020, it processed 2,603 requests and issued 1,846 TCCs.
Given the in-house development and deployment of this platform, the Executive Chairman of FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami has made good his promise of returning the Service to staff. What this implies is that Mr. Nami is adept at utilising human resources for optimal benefit. Harnessing and putting to use the talent and knowledge of the staff is a huge boost to their morale. It is also a step towards enhancing staff productivity and value addition to the Service.
Another benefit is cost saving strategy that Mr. Nami has adopted since he assumed office. When Mr. Nami assumed office in December, he did not mince words to say that it would not be business as usual in FIRS in relation to how funds are used. No more wastage of financial resources on frivolous ventures such as indiscriminate engagement of consultants for jobs that the staff can do or organising concerts, parties, and sponsoring pleasure trips. For him there has to be probity and prudence in the utilisation of the hard-earned funds of the Service.
Mr. Nami is thus making good his promise to the staff that he would return the functions previously given to Consultants to them in all ramifications. He has embarked on this since he took over the mantle of leadership. In addition to giving the ICT department free hand to operate and muster internal resources to discharge its functions, Mr. Nami has also extended the same leeway to the Audit and Investigation department to achieve its core mandate. Hitherto, the Audit function like the ICT was ceded to greenhorn consultants who more often than not shortchanged the Service. In most cases these consultants ripped off the Service.
There is a huge relief throughout the Service and the taxpaying community now that the erstwhile encrusted platform has been replaced with a more effective and efficient platform that guarantees ease of doing business. This has the added advantage of restoring taxpayer confidence, boosting revenue collection, and enhancing productivity of the staff. The new platform is currently running efficiently while its capacity would continue to be expanded going forward to make it compatible with the increasing demand from taxpayers and field officers. As a committed tax man, Mr. Nami understands too well the importance of tax operation, its strategic importance to the country’s economy, and how not to mess up the process for personal gains.
It is for this reason that he is applying himself diligently to improving the processes in the Service through effective utilisation of men and technology. In line with this disposition he has, in relation to the proficiency of the staff, reverted certain authorizations that were centralized in the headquarters like the utilisation of credit notes, operational letters, issuance of TCCs, etc to staff. Equally examination of accounts has been restored. Similarly, proper segmentation in tax administration consistent with the global best practices has been reinstated.
The various automation solutions currently being deployed to cover revenue collection in all tax types have the imprint of local content and smack of the innovative leadership approach of Mr. Nami. Despite the dire need for the integration of technology he is not compelled to engage consultants to undertake the jobs that can be undertaken internally. To him that should be a last resort or based on very compelling reason. This Management strategy is working well for the Service and the staff are happier for it.
•Adamu is a public analyst based in Abuja