The Commissioner General of The Gambia Revenue Authority, Yankuba Darboe, has defended the closure of the national identity cards producing company, Semlex, on Monday, saying tax payment is an obligation and ‘nobody is above the law’.
The Belgian company was awarded the contract by the government of The Gambia in 2018 amid huge controversy, as many disputed the credibility of the company due to its history in Europe. The Gambian government was also heavily criticised for failing to award the contract to a local company, Pristine Consulting, whose bidding was turned down in favour of Semlex.
“Currently we closed them [Semlex] due to their failure of settling their tax situation. They have been in the operation for close to two years now and the impression they gave us was that they will have a Special Investment Certificate (SIC) that will exempt them from the payment of corporate and other taxes,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle.
Due to this, Darboe said the GRA had extended their deadlines repeatedly covering months just to give them time to acquire the SIC though this was never materialized.
“We have given them an extension for the first six months and they could not get that certificate. We gave them another three months, we went ahead to give them another three months again, up to this period.”
After the final extension, he said the GRA ordered them to do their own self-assessment and give them their tax liability for auditing.
“Now, we told them that the fact that they could not be issued the SIC, come forward and pay. We cannot continue with extension and I believe, now it’s time to take action because we know that there is a law in the country, that nobody is above the law and we should all respect the law,” he told The Chronicle.
Given that Semlex is contracted by the central government, and working closely with the Gambia Immigration Department, the GRA is expecting no reaction from these stakeholders on their decision.
Darboe argued that the process of being issued the SIC cannot take more than six months, while the committee that issues the certificate includes the government itself.
“I know that, if they had met the criteria, they would have gotten the certificate a long time ago because the writings are already on the wall. You are supposed to get something three months into your starting and you couldn’t get it in two years, that means you have not met the criteria of that particular certificate. In this circumstance, I don’t think there is much other stakeholders can say.”
“The only thing for them [Semlex] to do is to come forward and settle their taxes like any other person. If you have a business in this country, the best thing is to make sure that you fulfil your tax obligations. If you don’t do this, we will get to you one day and that might not be a very good thing,” he warned.
The GRA boss has strongly advised business owners across the board to pay taxes to avoid closures, stating that, they only close businesses when they are pushed to the wall.
He urged businesses to ensure that they visit them for the payment plan arrangements if they are encountering difficulties in a one-off payments.