Joel-Onowakpo Thomas is the Executive Chairman of Delta State Board of Internal Revenue, BIR. In this interview with Gab Ejuwa he said Deltans should pay their tax.
Recently we understand that you made a field tour to your zonal offices. Can you tell us your impression?
First and foremost, the reason for the tour was to have anÂ assessment of what is going on in the board, after being in the board for almost eleven months, and when we did the tour we started with Delta North, then we came to Delta South. In fact, we coveredÂ the whole of Delta.
I can say that what we observed was below average, far far below average, below our expectation, for an organisation that is being repositionedÂ for increased revenue, is not encouraging.
I donâ€™t understand what you mean by below average.
Below average refers to the assessment of the level of infrastructure needed to generate more revenue than we are making at present. In a nutshell we detected much decay, which needs to be addressed. I canâ€™t imagine a revenue office having no basic equipment for revenue generation. Computerization, for instance.
However, I immediately remedied that by supplying computers.
How many of thoseÂ have you repositioned?
When we assumed office in 2009, our desire was to make sure things turn around. And this we have done by changing the structure of the board.
You are determined to take the Delta State Revenue Board to a new height. When do you think we can get a BIR of your choice?
I think weâ€™ve actually gone very far because after the reform process we embarkedÂ on a massive repositioning. We are not where we ought to be because there has been a gap before we assumed office. We areÂ addressing the issue carefully, I can now assure you that with his Excellencyâ€™s commitment and support to us andÂ between the time I assumed office till now we have bought almost 19 vehicles for the purpose of driving revenue.
That was something that wasnâ€™t there before and today we are already embarking on ETCC (Electronic Tax Clearance Certificate) and E receipt with our consultants who are driving the process for us. By the time all these thingsÂ take effect in a couple of days, and I want to inform you that we have set up an implementation committee for the computerization of BIR which is going to facilitate the day to day implementation, benchmark of whatever we are going to do, we would have done something substantial.
I want to know how Deltans are co-operating with your administration to pay their tax regularly. The oil companies and others. Are they responding like the situation in Lagos State or not?
The truth again is that there is a big gap and that is why this reform process has been introduced.
The average potential tax payer in Delta State doesnâ€™t have the awareness that he or she has to pay tax regularly for Government to instal infrastructure. And that is one problem we have to solve immediately.
Very soon weâ€™ll roll out a massive media campaign that will create the much-needed awareness, so that tax payers may not be ignorant of what to do and how to do it. Then nobody can take advantage of them. I can still tell you that despite all these we still have a long way to go, in the sense that we still have to embark on massive, audit of companies, individuals and banks and the premiums of the years gone by.
What are the things you would like to be remembered for as a CEO Internal Revenue forÂ Delta State?
Well, having assumed office in this place and having discovered that there is a lot of decay in the process and having embarkedÂ on this reform processes, my desire is that when I leave the BIR, I want to see a BIR that isÂ well motivated, that is, the workforce is well motivatedÂ to the extent that if for any reason the taxman is offered inducement, he will look at what level of motivation he has, compared to the inducement and he will decline being induced.
Secondly, I want to see a board that is built on a high level of discipline, because today when we assumed the office there was gross indiscipline, people did things the way they liked.
I also want to leave a board that will run efficiently on technology, that is the computerization process that is been embarked upon now. I want to see that the board runs efficiently, so that it will be easy to generate revenue without pursuing people, a situation when people canÂ pay their tax through the electronic means, either by SMS or by Email.
So I want a situation whereby the taxpayer will begin to see the people in Delta State board of Internal Revenue as people of integrity, who only want to do their job and their job only and not lazy.Â I think that is what is at back of my mind, if I am able to achieve these three things, I will be very happy, that is, staff welfare, maximum staff welfare.
Two, computerization of the BIR and Three, Discipline, high level of discipline that will lead to lack of coercion or minimize corruption.
What message do you have for Deltanâ€™s and especially theÂ tax industry?
I want to say that Deltans all over the world should co-operate withÂ this administration, the administration of his Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan because, I have seen in him a mark of sincerity, sincerity of mind and sincerity of purpose and He has made up his mind to run a very transparent government and that is the evidenceÂ of what is being done in the state.
I am glad to mention that when we went on tour, the royal fathers that we met were very glad about what he was doing for the state, and if we have somebody like that at the helm of affairs, who is sincere to develop theÂ environment, then you have no option butÂ to support him, and they should support him both in payment of their taxes and in whatever areas they think they can support him in.
ButÂ today with the little we are able to raise and the little that is coming from the Federal allocation, weâ€™ve been able to do a lot in Delta State.
Delta State today is like a new London, all the major cities in Delta State are sparklingÂ they have one touch or the other in terms of development.
You donâ€™t know the difference between one city in Delta State from anotherÂ if you are in Asaba, you come to Warri, you think you are still in the same place, because same level of development is going round all the cities, but I want to say that you canâ€™t do all this alone if they donâ€™t giveÂ the needed support by paying their taxes.
All over the world the environment is being developed by the taxes that are being paid and so people should stop complaining about what is being done with their taxes.Â Â People should pay their taxes and wait for Government to do those things that they ought to do.Â I think that is the best way to do things. They should support the Government by paying their taxes for the development of the state.