The parliamentary seminar, which started on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, closed on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital. The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized the meeting under the theme “Involvement of Members of the ECOWAS Parliament in monitoring the implementation of the protocol on the Community Levy”.
For three days, high-level experts gave presentations on the state of recovery of the Community Levy, the arrears in contributions from States and the prospects for the Community Levy in the face of issues related to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The low recovery rate of the Community Levy, which has been 30% for the past three years, has had the immediate effect of reducing ECOWAS’ capacity to implement projects and programs, reducing the institution’s visibility among the community’s citizens and slowing the pace of economic integration.
The presentations and debates that followed led to strong conclusions and recommendations. Thus, it is recommended, among other things, that parliamentarians use their influence to encourage States to apply the provisions of the protocol on the Community Levy, particularly the strict application of the tax base (including petroleum products and other items), the strict application of the levy rate (0.5%) on all imports intended for domestic consumption and the respect of a timely deposit (30 days after recovery) of the amounts recovered.
Conclusions of the seminar also recommended that the method of recovery of the community levy be reconsidered by direct payment into the account opened for this purpose in the central banks by the taxpayers after liquidation by the competent services, which would avoid any delay and any payment into public accounts.
Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Right Honorable Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, in his closing remarks, welcomed “these forward-looking measures” that will help raise the rate of recovery of the Community Levy. However, Speaker Tunis acknowledged that States face many challenges in implementing the commitments made. Some are facing severe economic crisis while others remain focused on solving urgent challenges.
Despite these difficulties, “ECOWAS Parliament is ready to follow up on the recommendations of these discussions and support the Commission and other Institutions to ensure that viable measures are taken to mobilize all Member States to meet their obligations to the Community,” promised Speaker Tunis. The Community Levy is a 0.5% rate imposed on goods from non-ECOWAS Member States. The Levy is the main source of funding for ECOWAS. It is supposed to cover between 70 and 90% of the community budget.