Ibrahim Swarray: The shortest serving Commissioner General of NRA

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By Alhaji MB Jalloh

History was made in Sierra Leone on Monday 5th December, 2023, when the four – month – old Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) was fired by President Julius Maada Bio.

The decision to sack Ibrahim B. Swarray; makes him the shortest serving Commissioner General (CG) of NRA since the Authority was established in 2003.

His predecessors – Dr. John Aruna Karimu, Mr. Alie Sesay, Haja Kallah Kamara, and Dr. Samuel S. Jibao – served their one terms before they were replaced. But this one seemed strange, though.

How he reacted to his sacking?

“I trust the judgement of His Excellency. He can’t be questionable, I accept his decision wholeheartedly, and I thank him immensely for giving me the opportunity to serve. President Bio remains to be my boss, President and Mentor.  I will continue to support him and be loyal to him. To my family friends and sympathisers, please continue to support this Government and the President, I remain humble and grateful”, this is how he reacted shortly after his sacking on Monday evening.

So what went wrong?

During the first tenure of President Bio, he appointed Ibrahim B. Swarray as the CEO of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA).

Therefore, his elevation to the position of Commissioner General of NRA was seen by many as a reward for his stewardship at NPPA. But unfortunately, his sacking has left so many tongues wagging. And it is certain that when a toad is hopping during broad day light, it is either chasing something or it is being chased by something.

Something could have led to the sacking of Mr. Swarray and I stand to be corrected.

The untimely reforms

Sources at the NRA alleged that the sacked Commissioner stepped on the toes of many senior officials at NRA when he assumed office as the new CG in July this year, following the June 24 multitier elections.

His hastiness in reforming the Authority to his likeness, I am told, didn’t go down well with most of the senior staff transferred to other departments or units against their volition. That was one of his sicknesses that militated against him.

Indeed, the catalyst that sped up his demise – albeit there are other reasons that could be stronger.

Besides, another problem with the sacked CG was his unprecedented projections of monthly revenues collected by the Authority that created so many doubts in the minds of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans, given the slow pace of commercial activities in the country caused by the global economic shocks. In his first monthly revenue projection, Ibrahim Swarray announced an unimaginable figure of monthly revenue collected that almost doubled the best monthly revenue collected by his immediate predecessor in five years.

Consequently, the short – lived CG came under intense media criticism for misleading the general public despite some Bloggers came to his rescue.

The last straw

I’ve also been informed that President Bio sacked the boss of NRA because of alleged corruption that has to do with the construction of the new NRA Building on Wilkinson Road in Freetown.

Swarray with apparent impunity allegedly increased the figures of the original money that was proposed for the building project and thought he would go free. The corruption, I’m told, was initially swept under the carpet but at long last, President Bio decided to act by firing him.

Another reason for which the President sacked Ibrahim Swarray was because of the number of reports received by the President, accusing him of arrogance and being disrespectful to Board Members whose advice he had overruled on several occasions, including advice on the building project.

A good number of Ministry of Finance and NRA officials I spoke to last night said: “The President should not have appointed Ibrahim Swaray as Commissioner General, if merit was the criterion for such an appointment.”

Before Swarray’s appointment, they added, “President Bio already had a previous jewel that was missing in the link of the NRA chain and that was no lesser person than Madam Jeneba Bangura – a seasoned, internationally acclaimed Accountant who had judiciously served NRA as Deputy Commissioner General during the first term of the President.”

Therefore, they furthered, “all President Bio needed to do was to elevate Madam Jeneba Bangura to the helm of the Authority after he had fired Dr. Samuel S. Jibao as Commissioner General.”

“Though not too late, the appointment of the Deputy Minister 1 Ministry of Finance, Madam Jeneba Bangura to replace Ibrahim Swarray is welcome news to well – meaning Sierra Leoneans who believe in technocracy, transparency, integrity and the penchant to deliver,” they concluded.

My advice

As a Sierra Leonean, my advice to all senior staff of NRA, who were left disgruntled and frustrated with the questionable reforms of the sacked Commissioner General, is for you

Guys to turn to a new page and work assiduously towards meeting the Authority’s monthly revenue target or even surpass it. That is because about 60 percent of our domestic revenue as a nation is generated by NRA which government relies on for monthly wages and other services geared towards the general good of the nation. NRA should, therefore, work overtime, if possible, to ensure that things happen positively and in a timely fashion. Moreover, now is the time for Madam Jeneba Bangura to prove her mettle, beyond any shadow of doubt that she truly deserves to be at the helm of the Authority by making informed decisions on how best she can improve the NRA. By doing so, those who believe in her expertise and work ethics would continue to be proud of her, as they have always been.

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