Friday, January 18, 2008

RTF: Sometimes, You Got To Lead Up

It is another week, another dollar…err…shilling…or whatever. Well, what I really wanted to say is that I am glad to be back for another week. You know what; sometimes we take life for granted. Would you kindly kiss your spouse and children, or just call loved ones? Put life into the right perspective now and then, would you? This political stuff that we talk about won’t go away anytime soon, but loved ones can pass on before you know it.

Sounds preachy don’t it?

Let me just throw in this caveat, I am not a genius by any imagination. So don’t take it that whatever I say is because I know it all. As a matter of fact, I’m still learning. Probably a lot. I couldn’t tell you how they make a pencil, or even how this very computer I am using came to being. So I’m just sharing the little I know.

I love Tanzania, but I have to be honest with you. That country stinks sometimes. You have educated people who are acting (on a world class) as little kids. I recently came across this story on the Internet, where the Tanzania Revenue Authority’s Commissioner-General, Harry Kitilya, admitted that there were major weaknesses in mining tax management and that TRA lacked capacity in handling mining tax management.

Read the original story for yourself right here.

From my perspective, that is a scary thought. But in Bongoland, everything is possible, even dumb things.

So if you want to know what I think of Mr. Harry Kitilya as a TRA’s Commissioner-General, I think he stinks. I don’t know the man personally, so this is just an assessment of his managerial and strategic planning abilities.

I honestly believe that all facets of our life follow certain universal principles. There are physical principles, for instance. If you want to buff up your biceps, you have to hit the gym. From a spiritual standpoint, spiritual growth also depends on spiritual exercises such as prayer, fasting and delving into the word of God, for instance.

I believe that one of the universal principles that separate the average Joe from a super Joe is the ability to study and modify one’s approach as the environment changes. The ability to view life from a prospective as opposed to a retrospective alone could easily tell who is living in yesteryears’ glory and who’s chasing the next big wave.

This is my conviction, and I would not argue if I am corrected – tax systems are not static. Tax systems are dynamic, being influenced constantly by political, social and economic forces. On the other hand, tax systems also could influence social and economic aspects of citizens’ experience. That being said, why would a tax commissioner not be in tune with the changing economic policies in his own country, given that the economic policies and even administrative directives from the government very much influence daily activities of a tax authority?

Mr. Kitilya can’t argue against being out of touch with the changing factors that influence the tax system, particularly the capacity to enforce tax laws. That is because the Tanzanian government’s decision to solicit foreign investors, particularly in the mining sector, was bound to bring in a requirement of a different tax experience and skill sets. As a tax Commissioner, Mr. Kitilya is and was supposed to know this. As a Commissioner, Mr. Kitilya is and was supposed to have the ability to assess the impact of all policy changes in the country on the TRA.

Surprisingly, TRA's own website lists principles of a good tax administration, which includes Managing and Adapting to Change. So what good does it do to have theoretical principles on the website that TRA couldn’t put into practice?

Remember I talked about having a retrospective versus prospective view? While I commend Mr. Kitilya for acknowledging that TRA weaknesses when it came to complex mining tax issues, that does not take away the fact that this assessment should have been done prospectively and not retroactively. We can all agree that the cost of Mr. Kitilya’s incompetence in prospective assessment of the impact of policy change on the tax system has been in terms of billions of shillings.

I know some of you are thinking that sacking Mr. Kitilya would be unjust. It is not. That is because I believe in the concept of leading up. The president, AG, or ministers of finance are not tax experts. As such, they depend on the expertise and recommendations of this tax guru. I know that things don’t run as they should in Tanzania, and that it isn’t surprising that the minister of finance could very much ignore the tax guy’s ideas. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that Mr. Kitilya tried to lead up his superiors by trying to influence either the timing of mining sector policy implementation or solicited TRA capacity and capability building in anticipation of mining sector changes.

If I were the top dog in the country, this dude would have been shown the door. I know the question to me would be then what? Who’s the next guy who will be able to show true leadership skills? Honestly, that is dilemma in Bongoland. I don’t think that we have a pool of great leaders. If we do, they are probably swallowed somewhere within the system.

My message, however, is that you can’t have a leader who is unable to manage the changing environment or lead up by communicating his knowledge to his or her superiors. It is that simple. Sometimes, a leader has to lead up in order to be successful. Waiting for directives to come only from above is a sure sign of puppetry. I don’t think that TRA, being so technical and functioning in a constantly changing environment, can do well with a leader who’s waiting for politicians to make decisions for him or her.
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Anonymous said...

Hey Tanzania in focus,out of touch with current burning issues? Mgonja,Balali,Mramba,Mkapa and corruption. Kitilya?

Jaduong Metty said...

@Anonymous 2:21AM
I could have given my perspective on the BoT saga, but isn't that an overkill?

I mean, isn't it clear that Mr. BWM's reign would go down as the dirtiest Tanzania ever experienced?

May be my reflection on Mr. Kitilya's leadership over TRA is not that sexy or juicy, but I strongly believe that it underscores what we are working with in Tanzania - which is nothing more than pathetic.