A local accounting body that has powers to censure its members has activated systems to investigate complaints
against head of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur.
The Commissioner-General is accused of abusing his office and breaching secrecy regulations by leaking confidential information on a taxpayer.
In this case, the taxpayer is the National Media and Publishing Company, which publishes Kaieteur News.
Earlier this month, the newspaper’s Publisher, Glenn Lall, filed an official complaint with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana (ICAG).
Any negative findings against the embattled head by the body will definitely have a long-term impact on his professional standing and credibility within the accounting community.
ICAG, in a reply to the complaint yesterday sent to the newspaper, and addressed to Lall, said that it has received the formal complaint, based on a letter dated October 7th. The body disclosed that indeed, the Commissioner-General is one of its members.
“The Council of the Institute considered the contents of your letter and the associated attachment at its meeting of 14th October 2014. It has been agreed that the matter will be referred to the Investigations Committee of the Institute in accordance with our bye-laws (sic).”
According to ICAG, the Investigations Committee will be communicating with the Publisher on the matter and subsequently on the status and conclusion.
ICAG is a public interest body whose objects include the promotion and increase of the proficiency of its members and students, regulation of the conduct of its members and students and promotion of the accountancy profession.
It is not often that one hears about a complaint against a member of the accounting profession. This one has significance
because it involves the head of the country’s tax collection agency.
The official complaint, which was prompted by the illegal release of confidential tax information, said that Sattaur is guilty of misconduct in office by his acts.
Lall said that Sattaur, as a Chartered Accountant, was in breach of a statutory Declaration of Secrecy, and of the law, when he provided information concerning the tax affairs of several newspaper publishing companies to former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, in September.
The Publisher, in his complaint to ICAG, also included copies of leaked emails that Sattaur had exchanged with Jagdeo and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
“While only of tangential importance, the emails demonstrate that Mr. Sattaur, who is the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, is using his position in an improper manner amounting to professional misconduct,” the complaint by Lall indicated.
“In view of the seriousness of this matter and the impact it has on the reputation of the accountancy profession for probity, integrity and professionalism, I would welcome prompt action to address my complaint.”
Those emails, published over recent weeks by this newspaper, revealed a shocking plot by top Government officials, in collaboration with Sattaur, to go after a number of private newspapers and news entities that have been highly critical of projects and the way taxpayers’ dollars are being spent.
Kaieteur News has been at the brunt of the offence by Government which has been under increasing criticisms for a
number of questionable contracts and deals with investors.
By law, GRA is bound to keep secret, tax and other financial information filed by taxpayers.
There has been widespread condemnation after those revelations of the tax leaks, with questions asked about which other businesses may have suffered.
Sattaur had become angry after the newspaper published a report which questioned the appropriateness of his three children and other relatives working under him in key positions at that state agency. He admitted in those emails sent September that he had used the threat of tax audits to successfully silence Frederick Kissoon, a popular, long-standing columnist in Kaieteur News.
GRA had also reportedly leaked sensitive tax information regarding Kaieteur News to the Guyana Chronicle, the state-owned newspaper, which was also used in a systematic attack on Kaieteur News.
A complaint against Sattaur has also been filed with international press bodies.
The Opposition has signaled intentions to have Sattaur investigated by Parliament for those tax leaks to the former President. There have also been several calls for him to resign.
Earlier this month, GRA, led by Sattaur, filed private criminal charges against Lall and his wife after seizing two SUVs belonging to a remigrant couple who are family friends of the Publisher.
GRA contends that the Lalls are the real owner. However, the Publisher made it clear that he and his wife would normally use the vehicles as part of a fleet, in face of security concerns.
The charges, and an increasing number of lawsuits as well as the emails, are strong evidence of Government backing a plan to silence an outspoken newspaper, Lall said.
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