Commissioner, Value Added Tax Service
Reconciling Economic Policy and Institution-Building Goals, Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations, Civil Service
promotion systems, corruption
Fri Sep 11 2009
Ezekiel Asamoah, the first commissioner of Ghana's Value Added Tax Service, discusses the development of the service and details his experience from the time the tax was introduced in 1993. He explains the factors that discouraged the successful implementation of the tax, including staffing problems, a rise in the tax rate from what was expected by the public, insufficient time to educate both taxpayers and tax collectors on what the tax entailed, a poorly structured education campaign, institutional rivalry that hindered cooperation with other revenue institutions, and resistance from political opponents who mobilized the public to oppose the plan. Due to these problems, the tax was withdrawn. Asamoah describes how the project team later prepared to re-implement the tax and how an oversight committee was expanded to include representatives of interested groups, thus curbing political divisions. The success of the second effort to introduce the tax, Asamoah notes, reflected adequate time and resources for planning, recruiting, training and educating the public. In addition, the tax rate was lowered, thus making it more attractive and acceptable. In describing how to build an effective tax service, Asamoah points out the importance of having properly motivated workers and promoting work independence while putting in a system of checks and balances to prevent misuse of power, reviewing tax laws and procedures and changing them when necessary to promote efficiency.
At the time of this interview, Ezekiel Asamoah was an associate consultant with Asamoah Tax Consultancy Services in Accra, Ghana. He joined the International Revenue Service in 1964 as a tax officer, and he later rose from the ranks to become the deputy commissioner in 1987. In 1993, he moved to the Value Added Tax project office, became the director and worked to establish the service in 1998. He became the acting commissioner, and later rose from the ranks to the position of commissioner in 2000. He retired from the service in 2001.