Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Carl Greenidge, has expressed that while the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) can be lauded for a number of initiatives it has taken to improve its systems, there are still some areas that need to be addressed, if the question of corruption within the entity is to be dealt with.
The Chairman said that this was the focus of the PAC on Monday last during their discussions of the Auditor General’s Report for 2011 and 2012.
The Chairman said that the Committee was examining the workings and operations of the GRA. Describing the session as a “fairly exhausting” one, he noted that while a number of deficiencies were highlighted, one must bear in mind that the Authority did make some significant changes.
“We were at the last meeting examining the operations of GRA. One part of the discussions focused on clarifications on some of the rules and regulations on some of those who are self employed and the question on how best their thresholds should be treated. There were a number of things pertaining to clarifications, and it struck me that if we as Parliamentarians are having so much trouble understanding the rules, then it must be a lot more difficult for the public. We therefore suggested that they organize some things in the future, especially to brief us on the rights and obligations and so forth.”
The Parliamentarian highlighted as well that another area of concern was the fact that the information on a road service licence – which is usually posted against the windscreen of a vehicle – carries too much information.
“As far as I am concerned it is not justifiable to make that kind of information available to the passing members of the public. We were made to understand that the Commissioner General of the GRA, Khurshid Sattaur, had recommended to the Minister of Finance for it to be modified.”
“The GRA has been doing quite well in terms of increasing effectiveness in collection of taxes in a variety of cases. I saw the World Bank commended them for reducing the time taken to pay taxes, which seemed to be reduced significantly in 2011 and 2012. There is an overall recognition that they were doing well, but there are a number of areas, particularly in terms of adequacy of processing, that they have to fix if the question of corruption is to be looked at carefully and dealt with, within the entity.”
Greenidge said that the agency has to take a number of steps to raise the level of its performance.
“Issues pertaining to work of GRA and its efficiency on the side of customs, was also one of the areas we discussed. We spoke of the problems of facilitating trade and speeding up its procedures so that it can act not as a constraint on trade, but can facilitate and increase Guyana’s trade competitiveness by reducing the time required for processing goods, digitizing its information and putting in place smoother procedures. GRA has to enhance its processes. As long as you have long delays, unnecessary delays, it gives scope for businessmen to shortcut the system.”
The Chairman asserted that there was a reasonable consensus on the fact that improvements in that area should be pursued. Additionally, the problem of liquor restaurants and the nuisances they create due to lack of control was also an area of concern for the PAC.
“GRA has indicated that it has multiple agencies involved in handling this issue but we have reminded that its members have a role to ensure that the law is adhered to. We urged them to use their influences in the process, as GRA is often the entity which grants the licences and renews them,” the PAC Chairman concluded.
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