The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) yesterday condemned the report on the seizure of two high-end vehicles in a tax evasion probe and said that it believes that a number of its employees are being paid to release information.
The GRA was specific enough to state that these employees are in the pay of Kaieteur News.
The agency also condemned the publication of comments purportedly made by Commissioner-General, Khurshid Sattaur.
In a press release the GRA said that Mr Sattaur’s expletive laden comments were “made off the record” to a reporter.
On Thursday, Kaieteur News reported that two “Jaguar” cars were seized almost two weeks earlier by Customs, an arm of GRA, after it was discovered that the declaration forms carried a lower engine size.
Taxes and duties on imported vehicles are calculated based on year and engine size.
Kaieteur News was told that while the “Jaguar” engines are on an average around 3,000 cc, the Customs declaration forms listed the engine size as below 1,500 cc.
Customs was reportedly paid just over $2M in duties and taxes for two vehicles when an estimated $15M should have been paid.
The two cars were seized as a probe was launched. The cars were said to have been brought in by a prominent Croal Street auto dealer.
Yesterday, GRA in a statement headlined “GRA Condemns the Leaking of Highly Sensitive Information”, said that it was condemning the attack on the Commissioner-General.
“GRA is disappointed that the Kaieteur News in its vendetta to taint the image of the GRA and bring disrepute on the revenue boss twisted the comments made off the record by the Commissioner-General.”
Yesterday, the Kaieteur News reporter, explaining the comments “made off the record” by the Commissioner-General, said that the official was called for a comment on the investigations.
However, upon learning that the reporter was calling from Kaieteur News, the Commissioner-General, without waiting to listen to anything, said that he is not speaking to the newspaper and that the reporter could write “what the %#@* yo want to write”.
Mr Sattaur then proceeded to slam down his phone. The reporter immediately reported the abuse to the Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, who attempted to call the Commissioner-General for clarifications. However, the official refused to answer.
The GRA statement yesterday did not dispute that the statements were made.
GRA, in the past, has been encouraging media houses to make contact with officials there when writing on any issue.
The GRA claimed it has been on the receiving end of “unwarranted attacks by the Kaieteur News. This GRA believes that these attacks are not only geared towards tainting the image of the Commissioner-General but also at undermining GRA’s operations.”
The Commissioner-General, who penned the statement, said that he is of the opinion that it appears that there may be some persons within GRA who are not loyal and are being paid by the newspaper to give “scoops and insights into highly sensitive and confidential matters.”
“The GRA, therefore, condemns these actions which are highly illegal, unethical and unprofessional.”
The agency said that on a regular basis, it has had to respond to articles carried by the newspaper which are “erroneous, bias(ed), and sensational and a breach of the Revenue Act and Tax Laws.” According to the Commissioner-General, while the GRA is favourably disposed to responding to media operatives, some ethics should be exercised especially by the reporters of Kaieteur News when executing their duties.
“It is obvious that there is an agenda when something said off the record is published,” the Commissioner-General said.
The statement also referred to an investigation launched by GRA concerning the alleged disappearance of the boat from the boat house, saying it revealed that there are persons, from within and outside of the organization, “with the hidden agenda of destroying and tarnishing the image of GRA for narrow personal ends.”
“It is believed that those officers of GRA who leak information are on the payroll of Kaieteur news. This remains the case although GRA officers are sworn to secrecy, pertaining to the provision of information to others who are not authorized to receive such information, and the fact that such offences carry stiff penalties including imprisonment.”
According to the Commissioner-General, “there is nowhere in the world that taxpayers information are used in such a scandalous manner in order to prop up the sales of newspapers.”
But Editor-in-chief Harris said that people dissatisfied with the general attitude of the GRA Commissioner General, and who want to ensure that there is an absence of skullduggery within the department, would release the necessary information.
Some of them said that on occasion, customs officers took action only to have the GRA bosses cut a deal and overturn legitimate acts.
While the statement did not comment on the seizure of the cars, Sattaur said that the disclosure of information on taxpayers, who may have committed an infraction of the law, continues to be widely debated by members of the private sector and their organizations that meet with the GRA on a regular basis.
“The Commissioner-General maintains that such disclosures have implications for defamation of character, if not done in the appropriate manner. GRA continues to emphasize that in cases where information is leaked, the newspaper should be more responsible and cooperate with GRA in stamping out corruption.”
The public official felt that GRA employees who feed media houses with information should be exposed but from all indication it appears as though “Kaieteur News is collaborating with those persons.”
The agency also noted that the upsurge in the leaking of confidential and sensitive information to the media comes in wake of the authority’s development of Standard Operating Procedures for disseminating information pertaining to defaulting taxpayers.
“The investigation continues into what GRA believes to be a conspiracy and it that will expose all elements involved.”
Yesterday, Kaieteur News’ Editor-in-Chief noted that despite the Commissioner-General’s call for GRA to be contacted for information, this recent case clearly highlights the problems that are encountered.
Additionally, there were a number of instances when the Communications Department of GRA was contacted for information but none came.
The Editor-in-Chief also said that he has taken note of the accusations that GRA staffers are in the pay of the newspaper.
“While paying for leaks is standard practice, Kaieteur News simply cannot pay for news unless it is of a magnitude that would drastically increase the sale of the newspaper.”
Mr Sattaur is embarrassed so he is going to make unnecessary allegations, Harris said. His attempts to distract from the real issue would not work, Harris added.
F&D Dept. to ensure businesses comply with quality, safety
Twenty storage bonds and 14 Supermarkets were recently inspected by the Government Food and Drug Department, which is currently intensifying its drive to ensure that foods available at the retail level are of the right quality and safety. This is according to the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department.
Premises targeted for the inspection include wholesalers, retailers, distributors and importer’s bonds, and supermarkets.
According to the Department, action was taken against violators. It included seizure of expired items, including products with no expiration date, products that showed tampering of the expiry date, rusted cans, closed coded date, and items in generally unsanitary conditions.
Among the items seized were V8 Splash, Juicy Juice, Curry Powder, Pasta Sauce, Flavour Mate Chinese Sauce, and Welch’s Harvest blend.
The Department is calling on all supermarkets to ensure that mechanisms are in place to effectively monitor expiration dates, thus ensuring the removal of such products from shelves. In addition, supermarket proprietors are being advised to demand a valid authorisation or licence from suppliers as evidence that products are manufactured under hygienic conditions and comply with labeling requirements.
The Department stated supermarkets involved in repackaging of high risk products such as milk, cheese, sausages, must have a designated area in keeping with best hygienic practices to carry out this activity, “
The Department is currently distributing its requirements to all supermarkets.
Those not in receipt of this requirement should obtain same from the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department, IAST, building, University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus.
Guyana’s first village takes stock of its existence
The Conference Leadership and Planning Committee, organisers and coordinators of the First Village Conference on Victoria, will face the media at 10:30 hrs on Tuesday, at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue, Thomas Lands, Georgetown.
The Committee will provide updates on the conference, disclose the conference agenda, introduce some of the conference presenters, and discuss in specific terms the various factors that have necessitated the hosting of the conference on Victoria at this juncture – more than 170 years after the purchase of the village.
Further, it will provide responses to the media as it seeks to position this indigenous development within the national framework.
It is coincidental that the conference takes place against the backdrop of national emancipation celebrations, said organizer Abraham Poole.
The emancipation of African slaves will form part of the context in which deliberations will take place, and doubtless be an unpleasant reminder that their descendants have not fully capitalized on the costly investment of their ancestors, he added.
According to Poole, the sloth and failure of residents to sense and respond adequately to transformations that have been occurring within the national and global economies, have been
identified as a prime factor in the decline of the village economy and one reason for the manifestation of the ensuing social, educational, and moral problems that continue to besiege the Village.
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Kellawan Lall, has been invited to address the conference, while Region Four Chairman, Clement Corlette, will also make remarks. The formal opening of the Conference takes place at 10:00 hrs on Thursday, August 5, at Victoria.
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