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More lawyers, accountant come before tax commission

Dec 8, 2011, 1:13 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

As the newly-established Tax Commission continues sitting in Banjul, more Gambian lawyers and accountants appear before it.

Those who appeared yesterday included Alhaji Ousman B. Sillah, Mariama Denton, Musa Bittaye, Sidney Wilson Riley, and Augustus Prom, a chartered accountant and owner of A. Prom Auditing firm.

The commission of inquiry looks into tax evasion and other corrupt practices of accountants, legal practitioners, companies, and private persons, medical practitioners and institutions required to pay tax to the Gambia Revenue Authority.

Set up in October 2011, the tax commission is also mandated among other things, to ascertain the extent of loss of public revenue resulting from non-payment of capital gains tax, personal income tax and sales tax; and to determine the role of individuals, groups and professional bodies in the evasion and avoidance of tax.

It will also enquire into professional malpractice by members of the public as it relates to obtaining goods through widespread issuance of false and dud cheques and other malpractices by members of professional bodies as these have affected foreign direct investment in The Gambia.

First to appear during yesterday’ sitting was a veteran Gambian lawyer, Alhaji Ousman Sillah, who told the commission that he is a legal practitioner, who got enrolled in the Gambian bar in 1978 and started practising in the same year.

Sillah added that he has been paying his taxes over the past years. “I have paid my taxes from 1999, and I have series of receipts and documents to show that.”

He said he has the receipts of 2000 and 2002 sales and income tax, adding that some of his receipts are missing because he left the country for treatment, but told the commission that he knew he had paid all.

“In 2003, I left the country for medical treatment until when I returned in April this year,” lawyer Sillah added.

The receipts of payment of his sales and income tax were admitted and marked as evidence by the commission, which is chaired by Justice Fatima Singhateh and assisted by two other commission members.

He said a sales tax notice was sent to his office, while he was away from The Gambia, and the said document was admitted and marked by the commission.

He recommended to the commission to consolidate the tax system, and to make it easy for everyone, both the tax-payer and tax collector.

Next to give information to the commission was lawyer Musa Ngarre Bittaye, who said he is a legal practitioner and was called to the bar in 1978.

“I have been in the private practice since 1999, as well as from 2005 to 2010 been a commissioner of human rights at the African Commission. I have two staff at my chambers,” Bittaye told the tax commission sitting at the high court premises in Banjul.

He told the commission that he has been paying his taxes, adding that he has been paying his income tax from 1999 up to date, but last paid his sales tax in 2009.

Bittaye’s receipts of income and sales tax produced by him were all admitted by the commission.

Maraima Denton said she was called to the bar in 1979, but started private practice in 1995.

Denton said she worked at the AG’s Chamber as a state counsel, and rose to the rank of Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in 1992, adding that she was legal adviser to the Central Bank of The Gambia in 1995.

“I know I have been paying taxes, but the office I was using in Banjul had structural problems, collapsed as a result of which I lost many of my valuable documents including the receipts of sales and income taxes,” she told the commission.

She said her practice started suffering in 2003, and showed the commission tax documents she had in her custody, including the one from the Gambia Revenue Authority which were all marked and admitted.

Sidney Wilson Riley, also a private legal practitioner, told the commission that he was called to the bar in 1977, and started practice in 1992.

Riley recalled employing three people including his driver, and told the commission that he has been paying his taxes until December 2010 and his personal income tax up to 2009.

Riley said he has receipts of all his payments, which were also admitted and marked by the commission.

“I have not received my assessment for 2011,” he said.

Augustus Prom, a chartered accountant and owner of A. Prom Auditing firm also appeared, and told the commission that he has been paying his taxes.

Prom said his sales tax payment was not regular, because the Gambia Revenue Authority had lost their file, but showed the commission some receipts of payment of his sales and income tax, which were admitted by the commission.

Sittings of the commission resume on Friday at 10:30 am.

Meanwhile, it was learned that the commission has ordered lawyer Fafa Mbai to make himself available to the commission, within a week from the date of the order, after efforts to serve him with a summons letter have so far proved futile.