National, News

An uphill battle awaits new revenue boss

By Bida Elly David

As the new Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), Athian Diing Athian assumed office, no doubt that challenges await him, with new recruitment policy, top on the list.

Dr. Patrick Mugoya, a Tanzanian national, who Mr. Athian Diing Athian has replaced, attempted to implement the new policy but faced lots of setbacks.

Dr. Mugoya was appointed in 2020 as the commissioner general of the NRA, succeeding the Ghanaian national Olympio Attipo, who was appointed by the president and dismissed by the minister of finance.

During his tenure at NRA, Dr. Mugoya boasts of transforming the non-oil revenue collection sector, increasing its monthly bulge through digitization of taxes.

In handing over the office, Dr. Mugoya welcomed his exit with a mixed reaction of joy and sadness.

NRA staff who had protested Mugoya’s bold stands on implementation of the new recruitment policy might have secretly celebrated his departure.

The contentious policy entailed that employees who are already occupying positions should re-apply to get back their job through an independent recruitment firm.

This system was anticipated to weed out incompetent staff brought into the system through malpractices.

However, the exercise seems to have cost Mugoya his job, though a clause in the presidential decree dismissing him stated that the Tanzanian national contract has elapsed.

Now that Athian Diing Athian, a former minister of finance between September 2020 and November 2021, is the NRA boss, the staff is anxiously waiting for their fate to be decided on the matter.

On Tuesday, during reception of Mr. Diing, senior officials at the National Revenue Authority (NRA) slammed the administration of the former Commissioner General over the new recruitment policy.

Mr. Gathon Jual Riek, the commissioner for customs division, said the deliberate clearing off of existing staff to undergo new recruitment was baseless.

“We in the customs department are not against change, but we failed to understand how commissions and experienced officers who worked for more than fifteen years (15) in the department are asked to be recruited again,” he queried.

Mr. Jual said that the relationship gap between the staff and the top administration has totally failed after several meetings were called off upon demand by the employees.

He noted that the employees would prefer it if the NRA board of directors talked about screening rather than introducing vacancies in occupied positions.

Mr. Jual argued that the NRA administration does not have any right to screen or fire any long-serving employee of the authority unless otherwise stated. Insinuate

“How can you do recruitment when there is already staff at particular departments? We could admire it if somebody new comes and talks about screening,” he hinted.

It is the business of the government to screen staff for quality, and nobody has the right to screen us, he added.

The NRA official underscored that the new unfriendly staffing policy was part and parcel of the reasons for the departure of the former commissioner general, who loved integrity.

He blamed the chairperson of the board of directors of the NRA for having failed to protect the rights of the existing employees within the authority.

On behalf of the staff in the NRA, the officer cautioned the new commissioner general on implementation of the recruitment policy, which would send the entity back to square one.

He said the entire staff of the revenue authority has been competent in performing their duties without any stumbling blocks, noting that their contribution to the government was affirmative.

“I request the new Commissioner General of the NRA to make screening possible, not recruitment. We have been contributing to the government; there were no questions,” he reiterated.

Meanwhile, Albino Chol Thiik, a senior revenue officer, said that the NRA is a complex institution with many activities requiring a large workforce.

He said that clearing off former employees for new job competition would benefit neither the government nor the board.

“What we always know with recruitment is that you clear off positions that are empty, and you advertise and recruit. There is no way you can recruit while people are there,” Mr. Chol said.

He termed the exercise a political game played to introduce a complicated system that will dictate the working environment in the NRA, noting that the administration should revise the policy.

“This is a contradiction because you don’t praise us and at the same time you want to remove us; it doesn’t work that way. This issue must be addressed, and the former staff must be retained,” he echoed.

Meanwhile, Stephen Dhieu Dau, the NRA chairperson of the board of directors, defended himself against the blame, saying that the recruitment policy was a government-generated document.

He said that he, as an individual, cannot manage to abolish the policy unless the board sits to revise and deliberate on it again accordingly.

Mr. Dhieu called on the disgruntled employees to be calm as the board of directors, in collaboration with the government, waits to address their grievances.

The NRA is an independent government institution that creates systems and policies around taxation and collects revenue for the fiscal sustainability of South Sudan.

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