Bor, 18 September 2018 – Jonglei State Acting Governor Hon. Dr. Agot Alier Leek along with the Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority Dr. Olympio Attipoe, H. E. Seiji Okada, the Ambassador of Japan, UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen and UNMISS Head of Bor Field Office Deborah Schein officially inaugurated the Jonglei State Revenue Authority on Tuesday in Bor.
The Jonglei State Revenue Authority is now the fourth state revenue authority launched in South Sudan by the Support to Public Financial Management project, funded by the Government of Japan, African Development Bank, and UNDP.
“Today’s occasion confirms that Jonglei State is a peaceful state. It is a sincere expression of solidarity from the Government and people of Japan and UNDP, to support us during this challenging time. We appreciate their support to our state’s development. The Jonglei State Revenue Authority will be a source for us to move towards providing opportunities and services to the people of Jonglei ourselves,” said Acting Governor Hon. Dr. Agot Alier Leek, during the ceremony held at the State Secretariat General.
Jonglei State Legislative Assembly members have been trained on transparent public revenue generation and accountability; a unified tax system was developed in Jubek, Aweil, Gbudue, and now Jonglei; and a tax education program to increase public knowledge of accountable tax revenue systems and promote voluntary tax compliance aired on local TV and radio.
“The inauguration of the State Revenue Authority today is an important milestone in democratic governance and financial management for Jonglei. It is one way to reduce dependency on aid and move towards full economic recovery and autonomy,” said UNMISS Head of Bor Field Office Deborah Schein.
In June 2018, Jonglei State Legislative Assembly became the fourth state to sign the harmonized State Revenue Authority Bill into law, constituted the Revenue Authority governing board and appointed the new commissioner, Dr. Lual Deng, to manage the day-to-day administration of the Authority.
The National State Revenue Authority Commissioner General Olympio Attipoe was on hand to outline some of the reforms his office is spearheading, including harmonization of national and state tax laws, and investing in an electronic database so that tax revenues can be tracked, as well as closely monitored by external stakeholders.
“The Jonglei State Revenue Authority should be able to provide accountable records to the national government. I urge the board of directors and the commissioner of the State Revenue Authority here to quickly establish a consolidated account, so that account funds are blocked and protected, and tapped only after the Legislative Assembly allocates the funds for specific purposes and the Ministry of Finance approves. It is our responsibility to make sure these funds are used to deliver services to the people,” said Commissioner General Attipoe.
The Ambassador of Japan to South Sudan reiterated at the inauguration ceremony that the government of Japan is very committed to support the revenue authority, as public tax is a foundation for government policies and nation building.
“As an Ambassador, I work on behalf of the people of Japan and the people of South Sudan. The taxpayers of Japan have sent me to South Sudan to provide services. I know that paying taxes is not anyone’s favourite thing to do. But the purpose of tax is to benefit the people and society. Taxpayers, like myself, are more willing to pay taxes if they see that their money is being used to benefit themselves and their communities in an accountable and fair manner,” said H.E. Ambassador Okada.
UNDP’s Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen thanked the Government of Japan for their continued commitment to working together alongside UNDP, national authorities, the subnational government and the UN family, to provide technical support and capacity building for non-oil revenue generation.
“Accountability is the bedrock of results-focused, people-centred development. As taxpayers, we want schools in our communities, we want access to quality health services in our communities, we want roads that connect our communities and connect us to markets, and we want peaceful societies. Tax revenues must be spent in a way we will all be able to point to and see which public projects were funded. It’s not enough for us to set up a system if it does not work for the people. People must know how much is gathered, when it is allocated, and to see, with their own eyes, what is done with their money,” said Mr. Kamaluddeen while speaking directly to the public at the launch ceremony.
According to the World Bank, the economy of South Sudan is one of the world’s most underdeveloped and the most oil-dependent. UNDP has been supporting the state governments to build a sustainable and transparent non-oil revenue generation system since 2015 with funding from the Government of Japan since 2016. The project was piloted in 2016-2017 in three states (Jubek, Gbudue, and Aweil) and is expanding to three additional states (Jonglei, Torit, Gogrial) in 2018.