– Tax Chief
While it is not impossible, it could be considered a little far-fetched to expect the complete eradication of corrupt practices at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia is promising, however, that the existence of corrupt practices involving certain GRA staff, which has resulted in tremendous revenue leakages, has been greatly reduced.
In an exclusive interview, Statia told Kaieteur News that when he assumed the post, one of the first things he did was to carry out a series of examinations of the systems he was inheriting. At the end of that exercise, the tax expert found innumerable weaknesses and instances of corruption.
The tax boss noted that the Customs Department was one area which was fraught with various corrupt acts and schemes.
“When I got there, I did a few set of analyses and I found that in the area of customs, there was lots of misclassification of imports. Based on the codes, you know that they misclassified a lot of items, and this was so that (importers) either get zero rates or lower rates,” Statia disclosed.
The GRA Commissioner-General said he found that the misclassification of imports was due to two reasons.
“It was either through ignorance – which I found there was a lot of – or collusion with the brokers and importers. And how I know that there was actually ignorance is because we started training (officers) in late 2016. We had a batch of 102 customs officers in the first batch and only 17 of them passed. Only 17 got over 75 percent,” Statia explained.
He continued, “So therefore, you had a situation where it was the blind leading the blind and that was one of the reasons. I can’t understand how there are only 17 people passing… It shows then that they were not even looking and examining the records, whether purposely or not.”
To address the issue of collusion, the Commissioner-General said that he had to put in place a system of staff rotation. He noted that this was implemented after the training exercise in 2016.
“What that approach does, is it enables you to move people around, so that by doing so, those who take over from them have the opportunity of checking to see the work that was done before,” Statia said.
He also found that there were instances where some officers were placed at the wharves just to collect benefits for their superiors.
“What we have also found is that some of the supervisors and some of the heads and wharf managers… they have their people, whether or not you like it. People were transferred to wharves strictly to collect (benefits) for their managers and their heads. I know the entire trick…”
The tax boss said that these instances of abuse have indeed “calmed down” with the measures he has put in place.
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