As part of efforts to promote fiscal transparency and contribute to increase domestic revenue in Liberia, a group of youths under the banner of Volunteers Hub has launched an Open Tax Initiative project in Monrovia. The initiative, which was officially launched recently, is aimed at helping to strengthen taxation and fiscal transparency in Liberia through public awareness and stakeholders’ engagement.

Speaking at the Robert Kpadeh Intellectual Center on 12th Street, the Executive Director of Volunteers Hub Liberia, Menue Bainda told participants that through the Open Tax Initiative project, Volunteers Hub Liberia will provide tax education to citizens using public awareness. He said they will also engage relevant government authorities to provide reports on revenue collection with clarity, comprehensiveness, reliability and timeliness to citizens and state how and for what public finances are used.

The project is being supported by the Accountability Lab Incubator Program and it will run for three months. Dir. Bainda said their activities will cover some parts of Montserrado County, including Paynesville, Mount Barclay, Fendell, Congo Town, Sinkor, Duala, Central Monrovia and Old Road.

Speaking at the launch, the head of the Tax Education Division at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Madam Gifty Asmah commended Volunteers Hub Liberia for their timely step taken to help buttress the efforts of the LRA.

She noted that for government to provide basic social services with efficiency, citizens must pay taxes to national government to help government function well. To achieve this, citizens will have to be provided with basic tax education to help guide them in paying taxes, which the LRA cannot do alone, and it requires collective actions as Volunteers Hub Liberia has started, the LRA Tax Education chief said.

Raising concerns at the launch, the Chairman of the Elder Council of 12th Street told participants that government cannot expect citizens to pay tax when government is not equally distributing taxes across communities. Mr. Harris cited an instance of fire disaster in the Popo Beach community and the 14th street community, which government quickly intervene to the situation in the Popo Beach community. But he said the government did not put any effort in intervening in the situation in the 14th street community.

He added that 12th Street is lacking access to safe drinking water, stable electricity and other basic social services, which should not be so because they all pay equal taxes to government. “We cannot continue to pay our taxes and don’t benefit from those taxes we paid and our taxes should not be used based on politics,” Mr. Harris added.

In another concern, a resident and businesswoman spoke of the need for the LRA officials to limit the use of too much air condition cars and try to move to places that car cannot reach, so that citizens can be educated about tax payment. She further said that citizens are not refusing to pay taxes, it’s just that they don’t know that they are supposed to pay taxes.

The Learning and   Communications Manager of iCampus Liberia, Janet Kamara, who officially launched the project, told participants that the Accountability Lab Incubator program is a flagship program for young civil society leaders to build sustainable, effective tools for accountability, participation and social impact in their societies. Selected ‘accountapreneurs’ undergo an accelerated one-year program with hands-on, comprehensive support for their ideas and initiatives.

Madam Kamara added that the Incubator provides mentorship, fundraising and management support, and access to a global network of leading institutions, foundations and donors. The overall objective of the Incubator is to support individuals to strengthen accountability and support better governance in their countries at a local and/or national level.

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