The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) will enable the two countries to tackle common challenges like tax evasion and avoidance, under invoicing of international trade transactions and smuggling of goods.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in Maun last week, Commissioner General, Ken Morris said the MoU will go a long way in elevating the level of cooperation and formalizing relationships between the two countries. Botswana and Lesotho have a lot in common as both countries are founding members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and former British protectorates that attained independence from Britain only two years apart. At the same time, both countries are affiliated to similar regional and international organizations.
“This signing will strengthen cooperation between the two tax authorities and enable them to join hands in tackling challenges, most of which are almost the same,” he said.
However Morris expressed worry that even with the good fundamentals in place, the volume of trade between BURS and LRA still remains very little.
“Part of the reason could be because both of us do not adequately market trade opportunities available in our countries. It could also be that we might have created some technical impediments to trade, which hamper our companies from trading alongside each other,” he said.
He further said it is worth noting that tax and customs are not easy undertakings as they have inherent challenges like tax evasion and avoidance, under invoicing of international trade transactions and smuggling of goods. In that regard, said Morris, the MOU should be seen as an opportunity for BURS and LRA to deal comprehensively with these challenges and in the process show commitment to moving the two countries and their citizens forward.
While he admitted that the tax and customs administrators cannot be relied upon to face these challenges alone, Morris said the MOU signing will reinforce the level of cooperation between the countries’ administrators.
“The MOU itself deals with technical matters such as exchange of information for tax purposes, joint audits, investigations as well as staff development and exchanges. It will also pave way for the establishment of relevant structures which will see to it that agreed plans are implemented on time,” said Morris.
His Lesotho counterpart, acting Commissioner of LRA Realeboha Mathaba said the MOU will enable the two countries to share knowledge, experiences and understanding.
“Our staff will benefit from such developments and eventually turn out to be better people. We have been immensely touched by BURS’ spirit of cooperation and goodwill, which is reason enough for us to develop even stronger relationships,” said Mathaba.