I am responding to a letter published in Kaieteur News on July 9, 2016, entitled ‘Mr. Lucas has abused his authority at GRA’.
I will not address insinuations that come from an anonymous person. However, I feel that there is a need for the public to understand the context in which I deliver service to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) as its Board Chairman. I will start by pointing out that I am paid a monthly stipend of G$10,500 which is equivalent to US$51.00 by GRA after taxes are deducted. Please note that I pay taxes on the stipend. That amount is not even close to the minimum wage, but I accepted it because of the confidence that was placed in me to help make GRA a better place for staff and taxpayers.
I use the stipend that I get to buy gas and pay for basic maintenance of the car that I drive. GRA does not buy gas for me. It offered to do so and I refused the offer. I turn in the vehicle to GRA whenever I am not using it. I also wish to state that, at the beginning of my term, GRA offered me benefits far greater than the stipend I receive and I refused them too.
Further, while the Board meets once per month, GRA sends substantial amounts of work to me on a daily basis which requires my attention and preparation for Board meetings and other engagements. On occasions, the management of GRA requests my presence at its headquarters for meetings as often as three times per week. I comply because of what I see as the genuine efforts of elements of the organization’s management to bring positive changes to the entity. Consequently, the issues of convenience and cost come into play. Not only will I have to give up my personal time waiting for transportation to visit GRA headquarters, but under those circumstances, I will end up spending more money than the monthly stipend. While I am prepared to serve the administration and to go the extra mile as necessary, I do not think that I should be expected to subsidize the government. It is in that context that the convenience of the car which I drive and the facilities provided become very important.
The staff at the GRA headquarters is already cramped for work and storage space and it would have been imprudent and inconsiderate of me to inconvenience them further by occupying space there. What the letter fails to tell the public is that the space that I occupy at Critchlow Labour College is free of cost to the government. Judging from the allegations in the letter, it is obvious too that the writer has scant regard for taxpayers’ privacy and confidentiality by questioning the presence of filing cabinets in my office which are used to protect government documents and communications.
Taxpayers ought to know that the office of the Board Secretary was broken into in an attempt to access sensitive and confidential taxpayer information which comes before the Board. GRA had to take extra measures to protect the office of the Board Secretary and its information from its own staff since the act was considered an inside job.
I therefore do not have anything further to say about trust and confidentiality at GRA and the extent to which staff members are harassed to violate taxpayers’ privacy.
I hardly believe that taxpayers would quarrel with the government giving me a stipend of G$10,500 and cold water to drink. Taxpayers ought to know also that every item that is put in the refrigerator is purchased by me. And just to put the record straight, I do not have a sofa in my office and the GRA never gave me a sofa. I do not have a TV in my office, much less a 50̋ TV. GRA never gave me a TV. Visitors to my office must be confused now as to whom the Chairman of the GRA is for they would have never seen or experienced the convenience of those supposed facilities. In the instances where I was given property, they remain the property of the Government of Guyana and will be returned to it once I am finished using them.
I requested support from GRA to have GRA’s work done and I was given the support. My assistant and I spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with GRA matters. It would have been difficult for me to understand and address many of the challenges of the organization at GRA Board meetings and to meet the many demands made of me by its management and others in the government without the valuable input of my assistant. The issues are plentiful and thorny and her effort at analysing and summarizing documents, at researching issues and at developing briefs is of invaluable help to me. While I might not be compensated adequately for my efforts, I remain motivated by the commitment of the dedicated staff members and dutiful taxpayers and Ms Alfred’s work, in this regard, should be commended not ridiculed.
KN alluded in a rather disparaging way to the relationship between my personal assistant and I. The attempt at demeaning the staff member should be an affront to every Guyanese, especially women, who apparently remain, in the eyes of that newspaper, as nothing more than sex objects. The progress that women have made in their education seems to be irrelevant to their selection for a job where KN is concerned.
For the record, I have many students who work at GRA in my classes. I never marked the exam papers for any of the classes that I taught. In all instances, the papers were marked by a third party.
Despite being a private matter, I ought to make it known that I am not an employee of Critchlow Labour College. Suffice to note too that, since March 2016, the university and I discussed my status and the way forward. Additionally, the concerns that I have about revenues have nothing to do with the economy. However, please note that the condition of our revenues will be addressed in the future.
Rawle F Lucas
Chairman, Governing Board
Guyana Revenue Authority