Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Khurshid Sattaur has rejected charges of nepotism in relation to his children being employed at the organisation and says that they were subjected to competitive interviews before being employed.
“I would like to point out that my children were not in any way given any special or peculiar treatment, not in terms of position, salary or status. Both of my sons referred to in the article have worked in junior level positions for several years before being promoted to their current positions, not unlike all other employees of the GRA and perhaps to their detriment. They are not paid any special salary as all persons in similar positions are paid exactly the same. They were subjected to competitive interviews before being employed and are eminently qualified for the positions for which they were employed and currently hold,” Sattaur said, in responding to a Kaieteur News article headlined ‘Family Affair exists at the GRA…Sattaur employs two sons, daughter, nephew, niece.’
The article reported that Sattaur’s relatives are working in managerial positions at the GRA and quoted APNU spokesman Joe Harmon as calling for an investigation and suggesting that it is nepotism.
Sattaur repudiated the comments and said that care was taken to ensure that there is no conflict or apparent conflict. He said that the interviews before his sons were employed were conducted by an independent panel and given a score rating based on numerous criteria including education/qualifications, experience, communication skills etc. “Appointments to the positions they now hold have to be sanctioned and approved by the Governing Board of the Guyana Revenue Authority and are not appointments that can be made by me unilaterally or at all,” he said.
“Furthermore these promotions have to be recommended by the functional heads of their respective departments, persons who are professionals and highly competent in their respective fields. It should be noted that the GRA, and indeed Guyana, has found it difficult to attract and retain these skills. And despite having other opportunities, my children were encouraged to stay and serve their country,” the tax boss asserted.
Sattaur said that his son Imran is one of a few Chartered Certified Accountants that the GRA has been able to attract and is the only ACCA qualified person there who holds such a junior management position. His other son Riyad has been employed with the GRA for over six years and is adequately qualified and experienced for the position he now holds, Sattaur declared. “Notwithstanding being adequately qualified, he continues to upgrade his qualifications by pursuing further studies in his field,” he said adding that “by this point it should become apparent and evident that there has been no conflict of interest, no peculiar treatment offered to my children or any impropriety as insinuated by the article.”
According to the tax boss, further care was taken to ensure that there is no conflict or apparent conflict. “Special care was exercised to ensure that none of them reports to my office, that I am not their supervisory officer, I am in no way involved in reviewing their work output, I am not in a position to review their work, I do not evaluate their work or performance, nor do I direct their workflow or assignments,” he said. “Additionally, there is no conflict of interest since I am a salaried employee whose only fiduciary or pecuniary interest is in my salary. Similarly my children referred to in the article are salaried employees, employed in positions for which they are adequately (qualified) or overqualified and earn salaries that are consistent with that earned by other persons at the same or similar level,” he argued.
“Therefore the suggestions and insinuations by Mr. Harmon as expressed in the article are not only baseless, unfounded and spurious, but are offending to and calls into question the integrity and professionalism of not only myself, but the senior functional heads of the GRA, the members of the Governing Board and my children,” Sattaur said.
The tax boss said that given the “high crime wave that exists in our beleaguered society,” he was appalled at the exposing of his children’s personal details as he said, it is “easy work to establish that they are on an annual basis millionaires many times over.”
He said that he has given the benefit of the doubt to Kaieteur News’ owner Glen Lall “as I would not want to associate this cowardly act to a person who is supposedly an upright, principled and most decent individual and who from time to time would beg for my assistance to employ family members, friends and associates of his for work at my agency, and who often times request my assistance to expedite matters; and I even go so far as giving him tax breaks on goods and supplies he imports for his business, all within the ambit of the law.”
Sattaur said that he was saddened too over the fact that the information could have emanated from one of his “perhaps trusted” employees at the GRA. He pointed a finger at a customs staffer who is due to be audited, as the source for the information. “This flaw of having a junior manager such as my son, sign the initial engagement letter only came to my attention recently after this same Customs officer was overheard making threats and, I was informed, even wrote the chairman of the Governing Board concerning exposure of my family working at GRA,” Sattaur said.
According to him, in his time, when he was a manager of the audit division, it was always the practice of such letters being signed by the Head of the Division or its Senior Manager. “Incidentally these individuals whose salaries tower astronomically and make my children’s combined salary pale into insignificance, are paid adequately to take such risks of retribution as would appear to be the case,” Sattaur declared.
The GRA head pointed out that the organisation has a policy of seriously reprimanding such persons for exposing private and confidential information, and if only for the purpose of protecting other employees from similar exposure in the media, said that the customs officer has not heard the last of him. “It should be noted that the GRA has a professional mechanism to investigate and address these unauthorized disclosures. The public should note with consternation the possibility of disclosure of their confidential information by such an individual, and as such the GRA will be compelled to act to protect the interest of the public,” Sattaur said.
He further stated that his relatives are all protected by Guyana’s Constitution that allows for equal treatment under the law and equal opportunities for employment and he does not intend to publish alongside any advertisement placed in the media in the future, that they should not apply.