The Public Service Ministry did not grant the approval for Head of Customs at the Guyana Revenue Authority, Lancelot Wills, to benefit from duty free concession to import a 2008 Toyota Harrier vehicle.
This was confirmed yesterday by Permanent Secretary of the Department of Public Service, Reginald Brotherson. The PS was contacted by this newspaper and asked whether his Ministry would have approved the concession for which Wills had applied. It is protocol that government officials who wish to benefit from duty free concessions must apply to the Public Service Ministry for approval.
According to Brotherson, “Mr Wills had applied for Duty Free. He had applied as Head of Customs and he wanted to bring in a particular car; a Harrier 2008 with an engine capacity of 2360 CC, but we didn’t grant the approval.” Brotherson said that he had written a letter to the Guyana Revenue Authority in this regard and it was dated November 30, 2016.
The PS said that the reasons for disapproving the application were that the year of the vehicle had breached GRA’s regulations and the engine capacity of the vehicle was too high for the position that Wills held. GRA has instituted a regulation that does not allow for the importation of vehicles eight years or older. Further, Brotherson said that the engine capacity of the vehicle was too high for the position Wills holds.
“So, because I think, it was over the required CC, we didn’t grant the approval. You see we are the Ministry that gives approval. Let me tell you what happens; we will give an approval based on whether the post (position) attracts travel allowance; that is the remit of the Department of Public Service.
“It must be on the General Register of Authorised Travelling Positions. So we give that and we give the scale of the allowances. It is our remit to add or to remove and to recommend eligible officers in keeping with their employment engagement, whether contract or a part of the pensionable establishment. However, it is the GRA’s remit under the Act of 2015 I think to approve or disapprove of Duty Free Concessions.”
Brotherson added that his Department would look at the position of the person that is applying for the concession to ascertain whether that position is named on the list of authorised travelling posts.
“When the submission comes to us, we check and we confirm in our register that this post is authorised based on the capacity, whether it is a Tier C or a Tier A. When we send that to the GRA now, GRA uses their determination in keeping with the (Customs) Act, to grant the duty free concession.”
He said that the GRA has the duty free concession remit and his Department has the remit to say whether the post is a travelling post.
“In the case of Mr Wills, while he might be holding a travelling post, (because of) the engine capacity of the Harrier, he was not entitled to a capacity of 2360 CC. They (GRA) got to apply whatever mechanism they want.”
The PS was then asked since his Department did not approve the concession, whether GRA could have still awarded it. He reiterated the point that his Department is only responsible for approving the travelling post.
Brotherson added, “If GRA could find within their Act an accommodation for that that is a matter for the Commissioner General according to Law, regardless of who is holding that office. All we do here is grant the approval based on the General Register and what the capacity of that post carries.”
Based on the implications of the Customs Head, Kaieteur News had made contact with the Guyana Revenue Authority’s Public Relations Officer Ms Baird to get an update on the matter. However, the PRO said that the Revenue Authority has no comment to make at this time on the issue.
Efforts were also made to contact Commissioner-General of GRA, Godfrey Statia, but calls went unanswered. When Wills was contacted over the weekend by this newspaper, he had said that all questions should be directed to Statia. However, he did defend his name saying that there is no truth to the matter.
On Sunday, this newspaper published an article saying that the Customs Head had imported the vehicle last January. This is after Brotherson would have turned down Wills’ application.
The vehicle was registered under PVV 9800 in his name. This newspaper understands that it is not usual for the Ministry to approve duty free concessions on vehicles with engine capacities above 2000cc to public servants. These concessions are reserved for persons sitting in the position of Judges, Parliamentarians and Re-migrants.
Further, persons who enjoy duty free concessions on vehicles over four years are required to pay a percentage of a flat rate of duty. Based on the CC of Wills’ vehicle, it would have attracted a concessionary rate of duty of $1.8M without the duty free concession.
The Customs chief would have therefore been required to pay $6.5M more in duties and taxes. As a result, Wills paid $184,917 which represents 10 per cent duty. However, only re-migrants enjoy this rate.
It is understood that officials within GRA would have raised concerns over the issue but this was quietened by senior officials.
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