Campaigning for Tax Justice – the case of Sierra Leone

As the Tax Justice Network is meeting in Nairobi on October 17-18 for its 6th Pan African Conference On Illicit Financial Flows And Taxation, the Global Campaign for Education spotlights The Education for All – Sierra Leone (EFA-SL) who led a successful campaign on Tax Justice

Established in 1999, The Education for All – Sierra Leone (EFA-SL) is a 56-members strong national coalition of civil society organizations, professional groupings, education research institutions and other stakeholders in Sierra Leone,  geared towards the implementation of quality and inclusive education for all. The coalition is CSEF-grant supported since 2009.

Objectives of the tax justice campaign

The Tax Justice campaign in Sierra Leone facilitates a process where CSOs make recommendations to Government and provide alternatives to finance the educational system in Sierra Leone.  The EFA-SL coalition in partnership with Budget Advocacy Network, Western Area Budget & Education Network gathered evidence on the potential of taxation to generate sustainable revenue to improve public spending on education.

 

What has been done?

EFA-SL coalition conducted a study titled “FINANCING EDUCATION IN SIERRA LEONE THROUGH DOMESTIC TAXATION” with support from the CSEF project Sierra Leone chapter. The Report was disseminated nationwide and shared with international partners and donors, which include UNICEF, OXFAM Sierra Leone, Action Aid, as well as GCE.

The campaign garnered interest from the general public as well as traditional media.  Radio and TV programmes disseminated key messages about the campaign and highlighted a call to review tax laws in order to increase revenue and improve education.  At the same time, the public utilised  media platforms to ascertain their opinion on the need for taxation in promoting quality public education.

District community sensitization and community meetings were held with local authorities, pupil’s, chiefs, teachers associations, women’s groups and MPs to discuss taxation issues at both regional and district levels.  Community engagement informed the public about the campaign and provided a space for the community and education stakeholders to identifying challenges and to work together in finding viable and tangible solutions to financing education in the region.

To further escalate the campaign EFA-SL hosted a number of events, all geared towards providing recommendations to government on how to finance education in Sierra Leone.  These include a national policy Forum on Financing Education and a policy brief generated out of the event. A community workshop was conducted on the findings of the Taxation Report and to analyze the Gaps in Financing education. This workshop was designed to grab the attention of MPs, Ministry of Finance officials and other stakeholders present, to advance the status of Gaps in Education Financing and acknowledge  the recommendations proffered to improve on revenue generation to finance education.

 

Where are we with the overall campaign

EFA-SL coalition engaged with the newly ushered in government of President Julius Maada Bio, to take into consideration commitments of its predecessors and ensure education is a major priority.  EFA-SL is closely monitoring government’s commitments to finance education from the last replenishment pledging meetings held in Dakar and Harare to ensure adequate revenue is generated to finance education. The pledge report and study conducted by EFA-SL coalition and the Taxation report are key instruments used to approach and engage the Ministry of Education and new government’s New Direction Agenda in Sierra Leone, in order to increase funding in response to education challenges identified.

 

Key highlights and  successes of the campaign

  • Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone is Free now for more than 2,000,000 school going pupils
  • Government committed 21% budgetary allocation to education
  • Earmarked sources of revenue generation recommended by CSOs has been adopted and government revenue generation base has increased with govern raising $15 million = Le 120,000,000 a week. This amount was previously collected in a month
  • EFA-SL study on Tax for education is a key source of information for new MP members of the Parliamentary Committee on Basic and Senior Secondary Education for reference in their key debates

In conclusion

The government of Sierra Leone is on the right track in honoring the SDG 4 targets and indicators of target 1,2 and 3. Free quality, inclusive education, Early Childhood Care are now prioritized in the education plans-ESP 2018-2020. This is one system shift reintroduced budgetary allocation to education reaching the highest ever in the history of Sierra Leone. The coalition hopes to mount an independent 3rd party monitoring of government’s commitments in the education sector especially with commitments on financing education.

More research for advocacy success stories in the Research for advocacy Learning brief.

Author: Joseph Archi Cobinah – National Coordinator-Education For All Sierra Leone Coalition-(EFA-SL)



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