Jul 31, 2008 News Comments Off on GRA corruption probe… Customs Officers, others to know fate in three weeks – Auditor General
Several Customs Officers and other employees of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) sent on administrative leave earlier this year are to know their fate in three weeks, according to an investigator.
Updating reporters on the ongoing probe yesterday, during a ceremony at the Public Buildings, Auditor General (Acting), Deodat Sharma, also indicated that the matter is currently before the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for advice.
Eleven GRA officers are on leave and five were dismissed during the investigations ordered by President Bharrat Jagdeo. The multi-agency task force comprises the police, Ministry of Finance and Office of the Auditor General.
Currently the investigators are busy finalising a draft report and, according to Sharma, the GRA employees will “know” their fate within three weeks.
Speaking on the status of the probe, the Auditor General acknowledged that it had taken up a lot of time and while it is the intention to focus on other companies since the Customs broker fingered in the scandal may have had other dealings, there is a need for closure for this part of the probe.
Whether Fidelity Investments will be charged depends on what the DPP advises, Sharma said.
With the completion of Customs Officer/Fidelity probe, investigators will next be turning their attention to the integrity of the other GRA officers.
Earlier this year, President Jagdeo announced that he ordered a multi-agency investigation into possible fraud of Government revenues by Customs Officers and Fidelity Investments, agent for Venezuelan Polar Beer
Acting Head of the Remission Unit, Roopnarine Ramkishun, was among the latest of employees to be sent home.
GRA staffers are being questioned about containers brought in last year by Fidelity Investments and Kong Inc, a subsidiary, importers of Venezuela’s Polar Beer that was cleared by several GRA officers.
Investigators believe that the containers which came in last year were filled with Polar Beer, but the GRA officers, including members of the Internal Affairs, Enforcement, VAT and Customs, allegedly colluded to forge documents to show, instead, that there were soft drinks in the containers.
Sources close to the investigations said that GRA officers are unable to agree on the kind of soft drinks that were in the container and could not find any of the ones that were claimed to have been in the containers anywhere in Guyana.
President Jagdeo had said that the probe will be expanded to include other civil servants as some evidently had assets that were questionable.
The GRA officers were also questioned about their bank accounts, vehicles and other assets owned, this newspaper was told.
According to the dismissal letters, the officers were guilty of gross negligence, among other things. Some were guilty of causing substantial loss of revenue to the GRA because of their actions.
The GRA officers have been working with Government for as many as 14 years.
Recently, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) called for the immediate re-instatement of two Internal Affairs officers who were fired on April 25.
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