Jan 22, 2016 News
More than one month after sending the country’s tax chief on more than 200 days leave, a
decision has been made to fire him.
According to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Governing Board of Directors at yesterday’s 171st meeting took a unanimous decision to terminate the relationship between Commissioner-General, Khurshid Sattaur, and the authority. The decision will take effect on March 1, 2016.
A press conference has been scheduled for today at GRA’s head office on Camp Street, to further discuss the development.
“Acting Commissioner-General, Ms. Ingrid Griffith, will continue to function in the position of Commissioner-General until further notice,” GRA said.
It will be recalled that Sattaur was sent off on December 17, after 12 years as Commissioner-General. The move, according to GRA, was made to facilitate an upcoming comprehensive forensic audit of the agency by an international firm.
As Commissioner-General, Sattaur reportedly accumulated over 200 days of leave.
Sattaur was also a member of the Governing Board of Directors.
Late last month, Kaieteur News reported that GRA officials visited the Goedverwagting home of Sattaur, removing property that belonged to that state entity. Reportedly taken away were an iPad, four vehicles and a number of computer related items,
GRA also cut the remote access that Sattaur had at his home with the servers and other systems of the authority.
Earlier this month, GRA defended the visit to Sattaur’s home, saying it was done to retrieve sensitive data and other property belonging to the state. Sattaur voluntarily handed over his gun also. At his home, there were six vehicles belonging to GRA, including a golf cart.
GRA Chairman Rawle Lucas disclosed that it was decided to leave one vehicle and the golf cart with the Commissioner-General.
The visit to Sattaur’s home was criticized in many quarters, with some of the critics contending that Sattaur was still the Commissioner-General. However, during a press conference at GRA’s Headquarters on Camp Street, the Chairman said regulations are clear when it comes to protecting taxpayers’ confidential information.
Lucas insisted that Sattaur was not cooperative with the GRA officials when he was notified that the GRA needed to recover some property from his Pradoville One home, at Goedverwagting, East Coast Demerara.
The Chairman had explained that based on a directive of the Board, on December 17, Sattaur proceeded on leave. It was agreed that he would return certain property pertaining to taxpayers.
The Board, Lucas revealed, also asked Sattaur to help identify persons in possession of GRA property.
Lucas stressed that the entire exercise was to ensure the protection of confidential tax data as required by regulations.
“We were not interested in anything else but the taxpayers’ property and data,” Lucas said.
He added that initially Sattaur had been asked about the return of the property and data, he had in his possession. When he did not comply, a decision was taken to visit his home.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, who was accompanied at the press conference by senior officials, had spoken extensively on the need for taxpayers’ information to remain confidential.
He said that on an initial review of the policies of GRA, there were gaps found that needed addressing, with little assurance that the information could remain confidential, especially when it concerns staffers who are on leave for a long time from the authority.
He said that the information available at GRA could be a powerful weapon in the wrong hands.
Sattaur came under fire in 2014 when a number of leaked emails alleged that he released confidential tax information on Kaieteur News to ex-President, Bharrat Jagdeo, and former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall. Complaints had been filed by the newspaper to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
Sattaur has also been criticized for not doing enough to collect taxes from a large number of non-compliant persons and companies. There have been recurring reports of various scams involving duty free concessions for vehicles, happening under his watch, causing the country to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues.
Lucas had warned that GRA is taking seriously the sanctity of taxpayers’ information – any leakage will result in the perpetrators being penalized, he said.
Sattaur issues statement on termination
– had offered President to stay on; wants outstanding benefits
Khurshid Sattaur, who was sacked as Commissioner-General yesterday by the Governing Board of Directors of the Guyana Revenue Authority, has issued a statement, saying that the entity was out to embarrass him.
The tax chief also said that he had offered President David Granger to stay on, but he was made uncomfortable.
Below is the full statement:
At the very inception the many public pronouncements made by the Prime Minister (Moses Nagamootoo) indicated that it would be uncomfortable for me to continue as the head of the GRA under the new administration.
I held office at the pleasure of the Minister, President and the Board and they are entitled to adopt the course of action they have taken.
Immediately after the new Government was installed, I made a request to the President of this country for my services to be continued as the head of GRA and I offered my continued commitment and dedication to the revenue administration of Guyana.
I received a response through a letter some time in September, that was backdated in July, acknowledging my offer, but indicating to me that His Excellency’s Ministers will take a decision.
In the meanwhile, I was given all assurances from both the Minister of the Presidency and the Minister of Public Security that there was nothing to be worried about concerning continuing my services with the GRA.
However, within the GRA there were many strange developments that belied or contradicted what was communicated to me by the politicians aforementioned.
Professional ethics precludes me from disclosing any of these matters. Suffice it to say, however, I was extremely taken aback by the decision taken by the Board on 2nd December 2015 to have me proceed immediately on leave.
According to the reasons offered this was to facilitate an impending forensic audit of the agency.
As the public is well aware, since proceeding on leave certain incidents have occurred, including a press conference conducted by the Chairman, that have targeted me and would appeared (sic) to suggest that my days were numbered at the GRA.
It does concern me that I gave long and dedicated service to my beloved country for which I have received a national award (the CCH), for my outstanding performance and I am now being discarded and attempts are being made to have me ridiculed and publicly embarrassed by the very agency that I gave long and dedicated service. These incidents, sad to say, would appear to have been orchestrated to make it very uncomfortable for me to continue serving with the same dedication and sincerity with which I approach my work.
It is apparent that if I were to resume duties at the end of my leave period I would have been unable to execute my mandate in an effective manner.
I am, therefore, very much relieved that the Board, probably sensing my discomfort, has compassionately chosen to terminate my services after giving me the necessary notice and most optimistically would be providing me with my hard earned benefits including my pension benefits up to my legal age of retirement on 31st October 2017 among other entitlement that applies to termination such as severance pay and my full leave passage entitlement.
I now look forward for a peaceful retirement and to engage in less strenuous activities that would allow me to enjoy the benefits of my long and dedicated service to this country. I am very proud and feel most honoured to have served my country with dedication, commitment and distinction.
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