Since June of 2010 I have provided leadership and strategic direction to the new Office Burundais des Recettes, an organization of some 700 people that now collects more than 78% of Burundi’s domestic expenditures.
My work involves leading the executive and senior management teams, setting the strategic direction for the OBR, defining its mission, vision and core values and interacting with a wide range of stakeholders, including high authorities in the government, diplomats, the international financial institutions and the private sector.
I am responsible for the day-to-day management of the OBR including planning, coordinating and implementing procedural and operational changes as well as developing and maintaining strategic partnerships and relationships with stakeholders and regional and international organisations. A key part of this work is building effective teams, including the advisory team that supports OBR management.
During the period of my leadership the organisation increased its revenue collection by 86% per annum on a sustainable basis and dramatically improved its service delivery. Burundi advanced considerably in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index in this period and was amongst the top ten reformers in the World for three years running.
The authorities wished to implement a new General Sales Tax and for administrative reasons wished to initially register only the largest taxpayers. It was decided to establish a Large Taxpayer Unit (LTU) within the tax administration to serve as the vehicle for the implementation of the new tax.
My intervention was to prepare a first draft of the LTU law and a blueprint for the tax administration which included all the necessary steps for establishing the LTU. Several drafts of the law were prepared before the authorities settled on one, staff were allocated to the LTU, job descriptions were drafted, a location was decided upon, tax files and staff were transferred, taxpayers were notified and the LTU opened for business as planned.
Income tax receipts, although growing, were low as a percentage of GDP. It became clear that there was a need for a complete overhaul of the income tax law and procedures as a first step towards addressing the problem of poor revenue receipts.
My intervention was to scrutinise the existing income tax law and procedures, draft a report with recommendations for improvements, review the report in meetings with tax policy makers and tax administrators and then to present the recommendations for a further review by the main private sector stakeholders (tax professionals, university academics and large taxpayers).
The recommendations received broad acceptance from all players and the authorities accepted the recommendations with minor variations.
The authorities were concerned that they were losing out in the regional efforts to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and wanted to evaluate various tax-based investment incentives.
My intervention was to examine the existing tax and investment promotion laws as well as the various types of tax-based investment incentives. I assessed the pros and cons of various tax incentives and undertook a detailed review of the income tax law. It became obvious that the tax law was in need of a complete overhaul which, if undertaken, would provide substantial additional revenues sufficient to compensate for a general lowering of the overall tax rate. Furthermore there were significant tax losses and other distortions associated with each of the tax based incentives under consideration combined with real concerns that each of the countries in the region would become involved in a bidding war for FDI, leading to substantial losses of revenue without any overall gain in regional investment. My recommendation was for an overall tax rate reduction financed through a comprehensive broadening of the tax base. This recommendation was accepted by the authorities.
The purpose of my intervention was to meet the Revenue Authority Project senior management team, the advisers and other main players and stakeholders, participate at the Project Steering Committee meeting, review the advisers’ work programmes and re-focus the project as necessary in line with the project logical framework.
I prepared my report and presented it to the Project Steering Committee. The report was generally well received. An Output to Purpose Review (OPR) followed shortly thereafter and I participated as a member of the review team. The OPR made significant recommendations for change and these were encapsulated in an aide-memoire and a revised project logical framework and budget. The authorities accepted the recommendations contained therein with the result that the project was successfully re-focused.
Documentation for this intervention is not yet available.
Through extensive knowledge of revenue administration the best ideas are recommended in international practice whilst taking account of the prevailing conditions in the country at the time.