For a number of years, much to the chagrin of many of my friends and relatives, I always maintained an optimistic attitude about the prospects of Guyana. I am one of only about four persons in the 1976 fifth form at St Stanislaus College who have remained in Guyana. The other fifty or so live in various parts of the world. Coping with life in Guyana has never been an easy task and the years have begun to take their toll as my experiences have slowly brought me to the same conclusion many of my classmates came to many years ago – Guyana is incapable of development.
Two recent experiences that I have had have awoken me from my Rip Van Winkle-like slumber. Both concern the GRA and have brought me to the in escapable conclusion that that organization has to be staffed by the world’s most inept people.
I had to be among the first persons this year to renew my motor vehicle licence as I went the first day that they announced that licences would go on sale back in April. The crowd and disorganization of Mr Sattaur’s cowshed licensing office in Smyth Street was only but one manifestation of the systemic stupidity of the GRA. If one were to examine one’s motor vehicle licence for the previous year, you would observe that it has your name, address and taxpayer’s identity number (TIN), among other things.
After hearing about Mr Sattaur’s much vaunted and expensive computer system and database, being the simpleton I am, I expected everything to go smoothly; after all, my biographic data should have already be in the system and was already on the previous year’s licence issued by the GRA. Nonetheless I was asked, as in the previous year to produce my TIN, proof of my address and my ID card. I cannot here repeat the expletives I let out. They were asking me to produce information they ought already to have had in their system and which in any event was already on the previous year’s licence issued by them.
The next experience was applying for Taxpayer Identification Numbers for my children, both of whom are over 18 and attending university. We duly filled out the forms and upon presentation, the first stupid question they asked was for the children to produce a proof of address either by a telephone bill or an electricity bill, both of which are in my name and so could provide no tangible proof of the children’s address. I cannot remember them having to do so when applying for their passports, which are more important documents.
The next stupid question was, “What is the reason you want the TIN?” This had to be provided in writing though the application form which you are required to fill out had no such question.
Well I did not know that a specific reason had to be given before a TIN could be assigned. I always thought that it was automatically assigned to a person upon application so that the revenue could keep track of a citizen’s transactions with the state, or to assist the state in ensuring that a citizen complied with his tax obligations to the state. This is what the GRA itself says. So they know the reason.
But it gets worse. With respect to my daughter, we said that it was required so that she could obtain a provisional licence to learn to drive, which was in fact the case. Then they came with the classic that sent me ballistic! “Well you have to produce the letter confirming that she has passed the theoretical exam before she can get a TIN.”
Contrast this to my son’s experience when he was at Mona Campus in Jamaica. He applied for a provisional driver’s licence. The Jamaican equivalent of a TIN was immediately assigned to him and he was given a (TIN) card (similar to an ID card) with all the necessary information. The process, inclusive of waiting time took less than ten minutes. He did not have to give any reason. The process was automatic.
Our office assistant who took in the applications to the GRA related to me that a large number of people whom he had witnessed applying for TIN, were being turned away because they could not supply reasons why they wanted a TIN.
I do not know who the genius is behind these nonsensical bureaucratic impositions, but there are some countries in which they would lose their positions.
My friends whom I regard as respectable people told me I approached the thing the wrong way. I had failed to offer to pay the necessary financial inducement to remove the bureaucratic obstacles.
Well I ain’t doin that!
I managed to speak to one of my former students who works at the GRA and she could not understand what the people below her were doing.
The problem is that while I maybe able to get assistance many other Guyanese have to suffer the indignity of this stupidity by the GRA. This cannot be right. I want, no I demand, that someone from the GRA, preferably Mr Sattaur himself to explain to the citizens of Guyana, who pay his salary, the rationale behind this arrant bureaucratic nonsense at the GRA. It appears to me that either they do not trust their systems or they do not trust the people who operate those systems. But that is not the fault of Guyanese citizens and there is absolutely no reason why citizens of this country should be visited with the consequences of bureaucratic incompetence.
My experiences are but a minuscule example of what the citizens of Guyana experience on a daily basis in their dealings with persons who are not accidentally called public servants. I seem to recall reading a report in the Stabroek a week or so ago that the PPP’s presidential candidate Mr Donald Ramotar had alluded to the fact that excessive bureaucracy breeds corruption. I agree with him, but I want him to tell the nation in a definitive way what he intends to do about it if he becomes President.
Rafiq T Khan