The Guyana Revenue Authority was designed to be corrupt – GRA Chairman Lucas

GRA was designed to be corrupt – Lucas

…says network of skullduggery “very wide and thick”

In the past two years, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been dismantling several networks of corruption within its fold. But these discoveries come as no surprise to Chairman of the GRA Board of Directors, Rawle Lucas.
Under the guidance of its previous management, the economist is convinced that the revenue authority was modeled to be corrupt.

In his interview with Kaieteur News yesterday afternoon, Lucas said, “I am not surprised at the levels of corruption we continue to unearth. We are dealing with a system that has been in place for a number of years and which was designed or modeled in my view, to be corrupt.”

“Corruption was rampant primarily because those who were there before were not interested in revenue collection for the government for the people of Guyana. They might have been interested in revenue collection for themselves because that is the kind of things that we continue to find, that is what it appears to be.”    

The GRA Chairman said that the network of corruption is “very wide and thick.” But undaunted by this, the authority he said, continues to dedicate its efforts towards ensuring that it leaves no stone unturned in the fight against corruption.

“We intend to look in every nook and cranny and find the various nodes of the corrupt networks…We will expose the inappropriate behaviour that is taking place.”

GRA Chairman, Rawle Lucas

There have been concerns however as to whether the revenue authority may be overwhelmed. On one hand, the authority is on a mission to remove corrupt elements within its agency. On the other, it is tasked with transforming the agency into a more efficient and technologically advanced one.

Be that as it may, Lucas does not believe the agency is under pressure.

“Indeed, we have so much cleaning up to do while preparing for oil and transforming the entity but we can apply our resources strategically. It is a question of if we have enough money to do things at the rate we want to. Remember, GRA is still part of the national system … But with whatever resources we have, we are strategically trying to deploy them in a manner that allows us to continue doing what we have to do at an efficient level while at the same time, trying to limit the impairment of our work.”

FORGED DOCUMENTS
It was only last week that GRA uncovered a racket involving the use of forged driver’s licences, certificates of compliance and registrations. At the centre of this scam were some of its trusted officers.

GRA’s Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, told this newspaper that several officers who were found to be part of the racket have been sent home while others are willingly giving evidence. Statia was unable to say how long the scam has been taking place but promised that he would be looking into the issue. He declined to comment further on the matter.

In the meantime, other well placed sources in the revenue authority were able to shed further light on the matter.
Officials told Kaieteur News that GRA individuals involved were able to get their hands on a “highly sophisticated photocopying machine.”

One senior GRA officer said, “It is a set of guys who have been utilizing access to GRA records and using a powerful photocopying machine. You would find it very difficult to tell the difference between the fake and the real diver’s licence.”

GRA officials also revealed that the officers were producing the fake documents in collusion with banking officers.
One Customs officer said, “They were producing the fake certificates of compliance and registration in collusion with officers at banks to get loans… They would get the GRA officers to doctor the records to say Tom Jones is driving a high powered vehicle like a Mercedes Benz and then take it into the bank…the banking officers who used to go and do the inspection of the vehicle got a raise and then they would tell the banks, ‘Yes, it is a Benz.’ But it is actually a Morris Oxford. So the bank ended up giving out a set of money and when the people were not paying and they go to seize the vehicle, they see is a lil ole thing. So that is what was happening.”

Kaieteur News understands that it was since last year that the banking sector was notified of these dishonest activities. Even though the implicated banking officials were dismissed, it did not result in the death of the racket.
GRA found that the scam was alive and well up to a few days ago. This newspaper understands that an investigation into the scam has been launched.

HEAVY DUTY EQUIPMENT
Last year, the revenue authority was able to crack another case of corruption in relation to heavy duty equipment.
Kaieteur News understands that for years, there were excavators and other heavy duty machinery and equipment which were not being registered. This led authorities to form the conclusion that the nation has been losing billions of dollars in taxes every year.

GRA’s Commissioner General had explained, “Registration means you have title and if you have title it means you can then transfer the title… What happened is that these guys were doing the transfers by way of Bill of Sale or by way of what you would say power of attorney and that is one of the ways in which they have been beating it. It is not only with the heavy duty but even with many other vehicles. Heavy duty has just been on the forefront for us…so when these excavators go into the interior, if they are not registered then they cannot be traced…”

The GRA Commissioner stated, “Additionally, some of the equipment that were free of duty based on these tax exemptions should not really have been granted it simply because they were not registered and they could move from one industry to the next…That is a billion dollar scam that we have come upon…”

Statia said that he has spoken with his staff to make efforts to ensure that there is the registration of all excavators and heavy duty machinery regardless of the industry it is part of so as to bring an end to “the present lawlessness.”

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