Recently there has been a lot of publicity given to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) on the use of the polygraph test for various levels of officers of the entity in your newspaper. While it is not my intention to add to the negative publicity this controversy has already generated it is nevertheless appropriate for me to provide clarification to the readership of the Kaieteur News in particular, which appears to be having a field day in supporting the stand taken by the Customs officers who recently refused to be subject to the test.
As the nation would know the GRA has been the subject of major public attention with the revelation that there has been an attempt to defraud the state of a massive amount of revenue from alleged deliberate acts on the part of revenue officers acting in collusion with persons who have a vested interest in engaging in schemes designed to avoid the payment of such taxes. As a result of this revelation, which it must be pointed out was discovered from the activities of the enforcement arm of the authority as part of the system of internal control, a major investigation was launched into the allegation for which in excess of twenty officers were placed under detailed scrutiny by an independent task force. The result of this audit was published and laid before the National Assembly and revealed more or less the same findings of the Internal Affairs department of the GRA that had initially conducted an investigation into the scam.
It would appear now from the findings of the task force that its work was inconclusive, since a major aspect of the scope of work which required investigating the assets of those incriminated in the scam, was not carried out. It is rather surprising that the two main contributors of recent articles on the controversy about the use of the polygraph test (Freddy Kissoon and Peeping Tom) are either deliberately ignoring this salient fact or are suffering from a serious lapse of memory. The public would know from public utterances of the President that the task force over a month ago was instructed to carry out further probes into the entity in order to fully discharge the original mandate that was included in the task force scope of work.
It is of interest to note that the task force report recommended certain action to be taken by the management of the GRA to put in place stronger internal control mechanisms that were necessary to prevent serious breaches from compromised officers’ activities in collusion with certain importers, which could render the current system very vulnerable. These systems are those that process the documents submitted by the importers and the examination of the containers at the various transit sheds operated by private businesses. It should be pointed out that most of the recommendations provided by the task force have already been acted upon, and where necessary officers of the GRA have been removed to other less vulnerable areas in order to allow for a higher level of probity and transparency on the part of those tasked with these very critical functions of the authority where there had been obvious lapses on the part of those who previously were given such responsibilities. I find it very strange and very unethical, therefore, that these public commentators would seek to create much public mischief by conveniently avoiding making any reference whatsoever to these findings of the task force report and the recommendations contained therein that were the genesis of the high level of scrutiny by external agencies.
It is of serious concern to me also that these individuals would seek to misrepresent what I had said in response to the selection process of those identified for the polygraph test. It was in respect to the selection of a deputy of the Customs and Trade Administration that I was asked to explain why the Deputy Commissioner General of the GRA was not selected instead. I pointed out to the journalist that he appeared to have a very poor knowledge of both the law that governs the GRA − the Revenue Authority Act − and the structure of the GRA, for had he been better informed he would have known that the fundamental difference between the two positions is that the latter is mentioned in the law and is not engaged in the day-to-day activities of the Customs, while the former is a position that is part of the management structure of the Customs and one that is engaged in the day-to-day activities of that entity.
This recent misrepresentation of what I said to the journalist and which seems to be a serious bone of contention for these two media operatives, begs the question as to the motive for making the connection between the polygraph test and my utterances about statutory positions. It is also very misleading that Mr Kissoon would seek to misrepresent what had been reported as the reason why the Deputy Commissioner General in my opinion should not take the test as he “works very hard to ensure a clean image and an untainted image of the entity” as being my reason for not taking the test. I have never stated publicly that I would refuse to take the test and Peeping Tom’s article today seems to have accurately reported this fact.
While I feel I have dealt with the main issues that are of concern to me as the head of an entity that requires a high level of public confidence to effectively discharge its mandate, and would not want to engage further in a public discussion on the merits for or against the polygraph test, suffice it to say that I stand firm in my resolve to eradicate corruption in the entity at all levels. I would now like to turn my attention briefly to the operations of the Kaieteur News. The recent articles have left me very perplexed that a journalist for whose credibility I have some amount of respect, would seek to report with a bias to serve the narrow, self-serving and apparent protectionist interest of the newspaper, rather than report accurately on the conversation. What is of even more of concern to me is that these two media operatives, Mr Kissoon, the author of ‘Polygraph hypocrisy’ and Peeping Tom whose recent article is entitled ‘Sattaur should volunteer for the test’ are individuals who should be the last persons on earth to make any public pronouncements on polygraph tests. In the case of the latter it is most disgusting that someone who hides behind the name of Peeping Tom and by this very act speaks volumes about his propensity to be extremely obscure, can now be making public utterances about a system that purports to do the very opposite. Isn’t it appropriate to ask that these two individuals also be subject to the polygraph tests specially designed by me as I have already said I don’t have a problem with such a test being administered if it would serve the public interest and that of the GRA.
Guyana Revenue Authority