– “That’s news to me,” says Chairman
Shortly after the new Government took office last May, a senior official of the Guyana Revenue Authoritysattaur r (GRA) photocopied the tax file of leader of the Alliance For Change, and current Vice President/Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.
The claim was made over the weekend by Khurshid Sattaur, ex-Commissioner-General of GRA, whose services were terminated by the Board of Directors, last week.
Sattaur is facing allegations that he released sensitive GRA information to an embassy official in Guyana, a breach of confidentiality regulations. He is also alleged to have backdated a claim for GRA pension to 2007, illegally collecting over $12M, a claim that he has denied. GRA, in defending its decision to sack Sattaur, also alleged that the former tax chief had a safe belonging to the authority at his home.
Over the weekend, Sattaur in a statement defending the pension payment said legal advice was sought, and he also made some startling claims. He said that after the elections he was on repeated occasions asked to do various things including settling taxpayers’ cases for meagre sums “that would have caused (sic) the country billions of dollars in lost revenue”.
“I am prepared to provide a list of names at a later date.”
The official also claimed that he was asked to promote persons who did not have the requisite qualifications, and who were acting for a considerable period before they were suitably qualified. He claims that he was also asked to promote persons who had questionable records, and to rehire persons who were previously dismissed for corrupt practices.
“These persons have since been rehired… since I have departed GRA, and I have been advised are in senior positions.”
More shockingly, Sattaur claimed he was asked to turn a blind eye to taxpayers’ files being photocopied.
Yesterday, Chairman of GRA’s Board of Directors, Rawle Lucas, said that the claims by Sattaur are “news to me”.
“I need to understand what he is talking about.”
Asked if he will be asking the former Commissioner-General to explain the pulling of the files, Lucas said that it is unlikely that Sattaur will make himself available.
Minister Ramjattan has reportedly said that he would be surprised at any copying of his tax files and for what purposes.
GRA has been accused in the past of using tax information to silence critics, media houses, and even persons perceived to be from the Opposition side.
The photocopying of a file of a sitting minister of the government, if proven true, would raise troubling questions as to motives as well as to the legality, especially as there are strict regulations over the treatment of confidential taxpayers’ information.