Would Mr Sattaur be prepared to take the polygraph test?

Dear Editor,

After reading Mr Sattaur’s letter of March 12, 2009 titled ‘Comments on the polygraph tests were “misrepresented”’ in SN I am still trying to understand whether Mr Sattaur is willing to personally take the polygraph test. Mr Sattaur’s letter stated “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.” Without exploring the absurdity of Mr Sattaur’s statement by asking two journalists to take the polygraph test, he has not clearly indicated that he would take the polygraph test. Mr. Sattaur has no issue with the test being administered but clearly has issue with the test being administered on himself.

Mr Sattaur is in favour of polygraph testing of those suspected of defrauding the state. According to the Commissioner General, the officers were identified by the GRA’s enforcement arm and were placed under detailed scrutiny by an independent task force. Then Mr Sattaur admits that “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.” The fact of the matter here is that the task force, which was given a singular task, failed to properly conduct its work and perform the most critical aspect of its mandate. The task force failed to investigate the assets of the targeted officers and is now apparently seeking to ameliorate its incompetence by using an invasive and question-able investigative tool. It would seem that Mr Sattaur’s fascination with polygraph testing is nothing more than an attempt to salvage a failed and incompetent investigation by the GRA’s task force. Shouldn’t the entire task force be subjected to polygraph testing to determine why it failed to carry out a major aspect of its mandate?

This is the same task force that, according to Mr Sattaur, was reconstituted to discharge its original mandate, ie, the GRA’s task force failed and the same task force is reappointed to complete its failed mission. The fact that polygraph testing is now being proposed is evidence suggestive of its continued failure. It simply cannot investigate the assets of the officers under investigation because it failed to do so. How many such investigations at the GRA have evaporated into thin air or became clogged with poor results? Is investigation of the investigators wholly unreasonable by now?

The statement in the final paragraph begs the question of whether Mr Sattaur has any part in the formulation of the questions for the proposed polygraph test. Assuming that the preparation of questions for the polygraph testing should be within the mandate and domain of the task force it logically leads to the question of whether Mr Sattaur sits on the task force. If Mr Sattaur sits on the task force then he clearly was privy to the incompetence. If he does not sit on the task force but is formulating questions for polygraph testing which would be used by the task force to complete its mandate then he is exerting some influence on the task force and its mandate. If either of these scenarios adequately describes Mr Sattaur’s involvement then personally taking the polygraph test should not be an issue.

Mr Sattaur stated, “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.” Has Mr Sattaur ever publicly stated that he would take the test? At this time the public is not concerned about Mr Sattaur’s public pronouncements regarding whether he would refuse to take the test or not. The public needs Mr Sattaur to publicly state whether he would take the test and if not, on what grounds he would refuse to take the test. Is the public to expect Mr Sattaur to respond that he would take the test but the Revenue Authority Act prevents him from doing so? If that is the case, Mr Sattaur should inform the public where in the said Revenue Authority Act does it provide for staff members to undergo such testing and whether such testing is reasonable. Furthermore, why not perform mandatory testing of all staff members of the GRA from the head of the body to those at the bottom to root out fraud at all levels?

There is nothing more transparent than for the entire GRA to engage in comprehensive polygraph testing. If immunity is provided by the Revenue Authority Act to certain officials within the GRA from invasive polygraph testing then GRA employees should be afforded the legal right to challenge the validity of such testing. This is an important public institution which had to subject itself to fraud testing because of the suspected presence of illegal activity within its own organization. This is the very body that collects taxes from hardworking Guyanese struggling in a poverty-stricken nation and the very organization that implemented the hated VAT to collect even more taxes from an impoverished nation. The public expects that corruption and fraud on the public is attacked vigorously but also fairly and in a manner that engenders transparency and accountability. The Commissioner General has a wonderful opportunity to take the test and shape a new direction not just for the GRA but for every level of government and officialdom in Guyana. A small brave step by Mr Sattaur could be a giant leap for this country and its ongoing affair with corruption and graft.

Yours faithfully,
Michael Maxwell

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