-Tax Chief says Authority in need of Operational audit
By Kiana Wilburg
In 2015, there was much talk of a forensic audit being launched into the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). This was supposed to be done by an international firm but it never got off the ground.
GRA Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, believes that the authority is really in need of an operational audit as opposed to a forensic audit.
In an exclusive interview, Statia revealed that he has been in talks with Auditor General, Deodat Sharma for an operational audit to be done.
He said, “I have actually had discussions with the Auditor General. I don’t want him to do a forensic audit on GRA but I want him to do an operational audit. He has not been doing the work he should be doing. He is looking at the superficial stuff. You need an operational audit to show what is wrong.”
While discussions are still ongoing with the Auditor General, Statia is making other moves to ensure the improvement of the revenue collecting entity. The tax Chief said that he would be moving to update an old report which was never used by the entity.
Statia explained, “In 2007 Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) had done what you call an analytical assessment of the system and (showed) what needs to be done to fix it. (But) that was never instituted. I spoke with them recently and they are prepared to do an update.”
The GRA Commissioner General said that PWC officials agreed that they would update the seven-year-old document if GRA was willing to take care of their accommodation and airfare.
“I have virtually signed off on that. So we will get an update that will show you what the major weaknesses are at GRA.”
Statia said that considering what GRA wants to accomplish, an Operational Audit is the way to go as opposed to a forensic audit.
The tax chief said, “The forensic audit will tell you what is the revenue loss and who should go to jail and these other things, but the problem with forensic audits in this country is that it is being done by people who are not forensic auditors but by normal accountants.
“Forensic auditors have a different skill; they look for fraud and look for where the money is buried. We haven’t had that…”
It was in May 2015 that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133 million of taxpayers’ money on 45 of the 50 forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration. The remaining five audits were supposed to be sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Some of the firms contracted to conduct the forensic audits were Nigel Hinds Financial Service, Ram and Mc Rae and HLB Seebarran and Co. Chartered Accountant Anand Goolsarran and Harryman Parmesar were also contracted to conduct several forensic audits.
Nigel Hinds Financial Service earned some $25M for auditing agencies such as the Guyana Oil Company Limited (Guyoil), the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) and the Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest).
Ram and McRae bagged some $20M for auditing the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Gold Board and the E-Governance Project among others.
Several audits were also launched in July 2015 while others started in later weeks of that year.
While the report on NICIL has been completed for months now, criminal proceedings are still to take shape. Those on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) have been completed for a longer period.
The forensic audit into the NFMU has unearthed “some of the most appalling acts of corruption”, according to Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma. But to date, there have been no charges for acts of corruption.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Sharma had said, “There was just no proper management at this unit. There were instances where you could see that they just lost out on millions of dollars’ worth in fees that they should have ensured they collected. There were some defaulters as well, and the agency just took no action against them.”
“(NFMU) could have collected a lot more revenue. Instead (the entity) allowed a lot of favouritism to take place and as such they lost, I would say, millions of dollars in revenue.
“They allowed their big PPP boys to slip under the radar while others were called upon to pay their dues. In fact, they weren’t collecting from two of their PPP big boys for some time. It was a lot of unfairness that was going on at that agency.”
Sharma had said, “The level of corruption which was taking place at the agency points to the incompetency of those who are managing it.”
The Junior Finance Minister said that the revelations of some of the forensic audits thus far, vindicate the concerns the APNU+AFC had regarding the lack of accountability under the previous administration as well as the stench of corruption in some agencies.
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