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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

$500 Visa FeeTo Enter Sierra Leone....MP Expresses Concern

Parliamentarians have concluded the debate on the financial year 2007 budget presented by the Minister of Finance, John O. Benjamin. In his contribution the SLPP Member of Parliament for Moyamba District, Hon. Jonathan Dambo explained that the five hundred United State dollars ($500) per tourist visa fee is too exorbitant, noting that it will prevent tourists from coming to Sierra Leone in high numbers, thereby depriving the tourism sector. He said if the National Revenue Authority (NRA) is insisting that the $500 must be paid by any tourist some may even say that it is because of the insecurity in the country and the fragile peace. The MP suggested that NRA reduce the fees to $150 or $200 per tourist, and assured the House that there will be an influx of tourists from various parts of the world, for as he put it, Sierra Leone has a beautiful scene which will attract tourists. Commenting on Statistics Sierra Leone, Hon. Damba said that the unit was formed to coordinate, collect, compile, analyse and disseminate high quality and objective official statistics to assist informed decision making and discussion within the government, business and the media, as well as the wider national and international community. He said in order to execute those functions effectively the unit must be empowered. He said the required support was lacking especially considering the enormity or importance of the work it must do. The SLPP MP suggested that to make Statistics Sierra Leone an institution of excellence, the following must be fulfilled; structural reforms, staff training and development, organizational expansion and capacity building. On the structural reforms for financial year 2007, he said the organization will undertake structural reforms to establish: 1. An internal audit with the aim of enhancing internal controls and better financial and accounting procedures and practices as instructed the Ministry of Finance. 2. A publicity and marketing unit with the goal of improving customer service delivery, improved information dissemination to all regions of the country and reach out for more surveys, especially from cooperative entities in areas such as marketing research and motivational research. Hon. Damba said during the last census exercise both UNFPA and the EU heavily financed the operations of Statistics Sierra Leone and its 13 districts offices throughout the country. The support, he went, on, includes among other things the procurement and running of a 110 kva generator for the supply of electricity, payment of leases for the 13 district offices, procurement of more than 60 micro computers, setting up of the Data processing and geographic information system (GIS) centres and payment of salaries to census and data processing staff and external consultants for GIS and census data processing. The MP revealed that with the cessation of support from UNFPA and the EU Statistics Sierra Leone is in urgent need of financial support from government to establish and implement the above stated reforms and development programmes. He said the key areas that urgently require attention for funding are establishing and equipping the internal audit, procurement, publicity, marketing and administrative units for the purposes stated above, and secondly, the establishment of the National Data Processing Centre. He said if this Centre should be fully operational, effective and sustainable, it should be provided with regular electricity supply, which underscores the need for funding for regular fuel and lubricant supply. He said the budget for 2005 financial year did not make any provision for staff at the National Data Processing Centre, but noted that management is of the view that if the highly skilled data processing staff are asked to stay at home for the remaining period of the year, there is every possibility that Statistics Sierra Leone would lose them to other organizations. As a result, all avenues are being explored to retain the more effective and efficient ones. Hon. Jonathan Dambo observed that with the ongoing decentralization process, the council and the management of Statistics Sierra Leone see the need for collaborative work between the district statistics offices and the local councils on the compilation, analysis and dissemination of high quality and objective official statistics to assist informed decision making at both local and national levels.

Source: $500 Visa FeeTo Enter Sierra Leone....MP Expresses Concern