GRA still to decide on use of controversial parking lot

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is still looking for a way to utilise the parking lot at Camp and Lamaha streets, which was constructed for it by Chinese logging company Baishanlin.

This is according to Chairman of the GRA’s Board of Directors Rawle Lucas, who told Stabroek News that he has asked the GRA administration “to look into how it may be used to serve both staff members and the general public.”

He noted that one of the major issues with the use of the facility is that there is no transport for employees from the parking lot to the GRA office.

“I don’t think it’s fair to workers to tell them that they have to drive to work, park and then walk half a mile to actually get to work,” Lucas explained.

He further explained that he believes it would be much easier for GRA to have two buses which will operate a shuttle service to transport both workers and customers to GRA.

“Make it as easy and comfortable for workers to get to work. [You] can’t expect a high level of service if you are not providing a high-level working environment,” he said.

Khurshid Sattaur
Khurshid Sattaur

The parking lot was constructed by Baishanlin on a portion of what had previously been government reserve. Since its inception, the construction of the parking lot has been clouded by issues surrounding the propriety of the project, especially given the furore involving Baishanlin’s logging export.

Numerous questions have been raised about the extent of Baishanlin’s logging and duty-free concessions. Observers have also raised questions about the terms of its investment contract and its tax obligations therein.

In October, 2013, Commissioner-General of the GRA Khurshid Sattaur had defended the arrangement with the Chinese firm for the construction of the parking lot. He had stated that the Chinese firm had “seized the opportunity to demonstrate its corporate social responsibility.” It was revealed that the GRA would also be paying a fee to Baishanlin, which sparked questions as to how the Chinese firm had come about being the builder for the site and why the job had not been tendered out if the deal was above board. To date, the total cost of the investment has not been released by the Chinese firm nor has the rent to be paid by the GRA for use of the facility been made public.

Stabroek News asked Lucas if he believes that GRA could, in good conscience, accept a gift of that nature from a company it may have to investigate. “You can accept small gifts. Someone saying thank you in a special way is not wrong. However, if that thank you is linked to behaviour or actions that are contrary to the standard operating procedure of the organisation, then we will have a problem,” he said.

Lucas further explained that if someone wants to show their gratitude whether in kind or with money, they should be able to safely send it to the organisation and say this is for X person.

“If a member of the public is interested in extending gratitude for a service they received, I see no reason why that person cannot write a letter to the Commissioner-General with whatever they want attached to it to say I wish to recognise the service of whichever employee. Make the Commissioner-General aware of it and he/she will have an opportunity to make the staff aware of the acknowledgment,” he said, while adding that if the arrangement were private or the sum exorbitant, there would be cause for concern.

Lucas further noted that in the case of the “parking lot, it wasn’t given to an individual employee; it was given to the entity.” He noted too that the lot was constructed under the previous administration, for which it might have been acceptable. “I have my doubts as to whether something like that would be considered appropriate,” he said, referring to the new administration.

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