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Kieran’s achievements

Commissioner General Kieran Holmes is satisfied with the great step OBR has reached during his four-year mandate at the Head of the first tax administration in Burundi (OBR). However, there are still some challenges.-By Diane Uwimana and Irakoze Yves Didier

One Stop Border Post at Ruhwa

One Stop Border Post at Ruhwa

The OBR mission is to assess, collect, and comprehensively administer and account for all the tax and customs revenues and it became the principal agent for tax collection in Burundi following enactment of the 2009 legislation. “Although the OBR is the agent for tax collection, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) determines tax policy. The OBR is obliged by contract with the MoF – the “contrat de performance” – to meet strict performance targets,” highlights states Kieran. He mentions that the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) supported the creation of the new institution and this support was then passed on through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA). After competition, I was appointed as the First Commissioner General of the “Office Burundais des Recettes” on June 16, 2010.
The Commissioner General states that some advances have been observed concerning the revenue collection from 2009-2013.
“From 2009 (our baseline) to 2013, the revenue increased from BIF 301.21bn to 559.51bn, i.e. an 85.75% growth rate. For the second time in a row, OBR has collected Half-a-Trillion Burundi Francs. This milestone has been reached in November and this is the first time ever in Burundi these results are achieved in such a short period of time,” satisfied Kieran.
He also draws a situation on revenue collection at the end of his contract stating that the Revenue collection results for May 2014 show that OBR has collected BIF 40.30bn. Cumulatively, OBR has now collected BIF 241.16bn since the beginning of 2014. This is 3.59bn above cumulative targets (+1.51%) and 21.07bn above cumulative 2013 results (+9.72%). “OBR is now on track to collect in six months revenues that used to take a year to be collected in 2009, before the creation of OBR,” he points out.
According to him, OBR has also played an active part in this achievement by working closely with other agencies. Most notably, it carried out the establishment of the Single Window for Business Registration and the development of new tax procedures derived from new modern tax laws. He also indicates that ASYCUDA World computer system (Automated System for Customs Data) gave the traders the possibility to conduct customs clearances online. “Additional systems were rolled out and these enable online communications from Burundi all the way to the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam,” declares Kieran.

Trade facilitation initiatives and improved communication also set up

“From 2009 (our baseline) to 2013, the revenue increased from BIF 301.21bn to 559.51bn, i.e. an 85.75% growth rate. For the second time in a row, OBR has collected Half-a-Trillion Burundi Francs.”  ©Iwacu

“From 2009 (our baseline) to 2013, the revenue increased from BIF 301.21bn to 559.51bn, i.e. an 85.75% growth rate. For the second time in a row, OBR has collected Half-a-Trillion Burundi Francs.” ©Iwacu

One Stop Border Posts –these are currently located at the borders of Kobero, Gasenyi and Ruhwa. These sites were selected to enhance trade facilitation by combining border control activities at one location, share border control data, and reduce the time it takes to clear passengers and goods at the border. AEO (Authorized Economic Operators): Aimed at establishing a partnership with International Trade Operators to secure and facilitate global trade. He points out that OBR Customs are now in a better position to exercise controls on imports and exports without compromising trade facilitation and security. The EAC’s Single Customs Territory was adopted. “As a result, all 5 EAC Revenue Authorities are now working on integrating customs clearance processes and reducing internal border controls on goods moving between Partner States,” highlights Kieran.
He adds that a series of education and sensitization campaigns is now underway to address the wide range of target audiences identified which includes the general public, media, specialized and technical groups and public officials.

Some of the challenges

According to Kieran Holmes, Commissioner General of Burundi Authority Revenue (OBR), during the 4th last years, challenges have also marked his mandate. Kieran underlines that one of the most challenges was the concept of tax administration which was a new concept in Burundi to which people weren’t familiar. Then, it took much time to explain this new concept not only to the population but also to the staff who had to work in this tax administration.
“Another challenge was the resistance to change; normally, the human nature doesn’t like a change. So, it was not easy for me to bring the population to change but also eradicate corruption and create a clear and an open plan offices to reduce corruption and establishing a new Code of conduct and an obligation for OBR staff to declare assets,” states Kieran. He goes saying that another challenge is the lack of internal taxes computerization: Burundi Authority Revenue is the only one that still uses the manual system in EAC, a big issue that has to be submitted to the donors to support the OBR. Kieran declares that if the internal taxes computerization is set up, there will be payment by telephones and people won’t need to move from where they are to come to OBR office to pay their taxes.
The advice that I can provide to the future Commissioner General, says Kieran, is to continue building effective tax administration in the way that all the team masters the tax administration system and knows how to do it correctly. And lastly, the future General Commissioner has to strongly keep the ideology that the OBR is a semi autonomous administration; this should still go on to push people working inside the institution to know and realize that the tax administration is a business department and not a an official one .However, the Commissioner General is convinced and expects that in 2019, OBR will collect 10 times what it collected in 2009.