Jul 02, 2016 News
Over the past few days, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been going through what observers have deemed as a “massive shakeup” of its Human Resources Sector.
Some have been fired, reassigned and others promoted. However, the person who should be held to the fire is the Chairman of the Governing Board of Directors, Rawle Lucas.
This was according to the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition and Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo.
Speaking during a Press Conference at Freedom House, Robb Street, Georgetown on Wednesday Jagdeo said that the reason given by Lucas to sack top officials was a revenue shortfall.
He continued that Lucas being the head of the Board of the Directors, is the one that should be fired for the revenue shortfall because of the deal between the Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) and the GRA.
DDL a few months ago announced that an amicable settlement was reached with the GRA to resolve a longstanding dispute over Consumption Tax that began in 2002.
This settlement followed an extended legal battle between DDL and GRA arising out of the Consumption Tax assessment levied against DDL by then Commissioner-General Khurshid Sattaur in January 2009, in the sum of $5.4 billion.
The assessment was immediately challenged in the High Court by DDL through its lawyers Miles Fitzpatrick, S.C. and Timothy Jonas.
The company announced that after intense negotiations, both parties were able to arrive at a consensus to fully and finally settle all claims by the GRA and liability by DDL for both Consumption and Excise tax up to March 9, last, in the sum of $1.5 billion. This sum is payable over 12 months.
DDL, in good faith, effected the payment of $100M in compliance with the settlement terms.
But Jagdeo back then, had argued that while the assessment was from 2002 to 2006, the settlement was only arrived at on March 9, 2016.
It means that DDL had used this money for 15 years. According to the Opposition Leader, if one were to calculate interest on this sum, at a rate of 10 per cent per annum, using only the past 10 years, the liability would amount to $10.6B.
Jagdeo had stated that the settlement also writes off all possible liabilities in respect of Excise Tax up to March 9, 2016, so if the same situation obtains with regard to the Excise Tax, between 2006 and 2016, then the liabilities would run into tens of billions of dollars more.
Jagdeo reiterated at the press conference on Wednesday that the settlement has opened the door for other companies to seek refunds on taxes paid.
“If there is a revenue shortfall, the Chairman of the Board, should be fired. The Chairman of the Board, Rawle Lucas, should be fired and the head of GRA, not the staff… Imagine you expose the revenue agencies to a $60B liability and you are arguing that we had a shortfall of a hundred million dollar and you fire staff,” Jagdeo stated.
Lucas in a recent press briefing had told media operatives that the shakeup in Management was due to the unsatisfactory performance of divisions within the agency.
Officials that were axed were Archana Joshi, who was at the time, the Head of the Human Resources and Management Division; and Jameel Baksh, who was Head of Customs and Excise Operations.
Lucas had put the decision down to poor performance and a need to get individuals who are more suited to the changes being made.
Former Deputy Commissioner for Tax Operations, Ms. Hema Khan, was promoted to Deputy Commissioner General of GRA while International Trade Lawyer, Lancelot Wills, took over the Customs portfolio from Baksh.
The Acting Commissioner General of GRA, Ingrid Griffith, Lucas had stated, would be Head of Corporate Services.
Lucas had also confirmed that Karen Chapman, who headed GRA’s Law Enforcement and Investigative division, was reassigned to oversee GRA’s transition programme.
Head of Projects, Fitzroy Corlette, will be taking over this division, he had stated.
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