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Jun 26, 2016 News
Over the last five years, 1,756 re-migrant applications have been approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But what raises eyebrows is the fact that the said Ministry has no mechanism or system in place to determine which of those re-migrants are actually here or if they simply abused the system.
This was confirmed recently by Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge.
The politician said, “It is true that we do not have the capacity to make these checks. What would normally happen is that we would receive a complaint of a breach or that someone is abusing the system and we would then pass it on to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). But even there had loopholes in tracking and monitoring the system.”
Greenidge said that it is part of the reason why he has made strong recommendations for the re-migrant scheme to be transferred to the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Citizenry for greater scrutiny and management.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said, “First off, readers should understand that the scheme is one which attempts to provide incentives by way of tax exemptions on personal effects, tools of trade and other household goods in order to encourage Guyanese to return to their homeland to work. But the system is one that has been cheated and indeed we have looked at the administration of the remigrant scheme with an aim to plugging up all the holes.”
The Member of Parliament stressed that the current arrangement at his Ministry is far from being efficient enough to manage the remigrants, ensure that they comply with the laws and inhibit the chances for them to be able to find room to cheat the system.
He continued, “We have conducted assessments of the system. There were some glaring irregularities coming out of the recent assessment done and there are a number of recommendations underway to improve the system.”
These recommendations, Greenidge said, are in relation to who should handle the scheme, how the remigrants are to be processed and under what laws the scheme would be managed.
He said, “This came about because we found that there are problems with the existing laws. They just have to be corrected if we are to address the irregularities in the system. In the past, the scheme had been a site of much corruption and while some of the measures with respect to the amendments to the laws will be helpful, the ultimate move would be to send the agency down the road for the Ministry of Citizenship and the Ministry of Public Security to better regulate the system and address the infractions as they are discovered.”
He recalled that the Auditor General’s report for 2014 even highlighted glaring breaches within the remigrant system. Greenidge said that it is unfortunate that the past regime never sought to ensure that the scheme was subjected to some level of serious scrutiny. This is about to change, he said.
“We are going to see a clean up in the system. Every remigrant shall join the line of accountability and transparency. The misuse of the system shall not be allowed to continue.”
In his report, Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, said that a special investigation was conducted into allegations involving tax exemptions granted on luxury vehicles to remigrants between 2008 and 2013. Sharma said that investigations revealed that 15 remigrants apparently submitted fictitious documents for the importation of luxury vehicles, and also breached the conditions under which the relevant tax exemptions were granted.
He said that a preliminary report was issued to the Board of Directors of the Guyana Revenue Authority with recommendations for appropriate disciplinary action against culpable officers, as well as taking action to recover taxes. Even today, Sharma said that the position remained the same.
In the meantime, Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, says that Government has made a good move by amending the Customs Laws in an effort to bring an end to the abuse and manipulation of the remigrant scheme.
Goolsarran said that while this is commendable, it is imperative that the administration launches an investigation into the scheme. He said that those who abused the system must be made to face the music.
The former Auditor General said that there are numerous instances where persons are enjoying the benefits of remigrant status but by no means satisfy the requirements to be one. Goolsarran said that a cleanup of the scheme is necessary and would bring greater meaning to the recent amendments to the laws.
“There are instances where persons are in possession of forged documents. Government must move to get this out of the system. Those who abused and misused the system must be prosecuted to let others know that this Government means business…
“Some people come in with new vehicles for example and next morning they are gone. They don’t stay in the country for the stipulated time prescribed in the law and that by itself is a racket. Government must destroy it. We cannot allow those who manipulated the system in that way to escape,” said Goolsarran.
The Chartered Accountant added, “As a re-migrant you are entitled to bring in your moveable assets at a concessionary rate but people in some cases bring in items under this guise only to turn around and sell it and make a huge profit off of it. After that, they disappear. These under hand deals must come to an end.
“This matter has some serious implications and I know that once Government raises the carpet, they may very well be surprised as to the magnitude of the corruption involved.”
Goolsarran added that the remigrant scheme, if administered, can bring huge benefits but stressed that transparency and accountability must be restored.
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