Responding to claims by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo that the Guyana Revenue Authority(GRA) was out to victimise People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Members of Parliament, Commissioner of the Revenue Authority, Godfrey Statia, has stated that this was far from the truth.
In fact, he said the Revenue body’s action was in keeping with efforts to ensure that the tax laws are adhered to.
The Opposition Leader on Thursday lashed out at Government, claiming it was using the GRA to work against his party and its members because of their stance against the 2017 National Estimates.
According to Jagdeo, at least five members of the party’s Executive received letters from the GRA, which stated that they have outstanding property taxes.
He told the media that some of the members have denied owing the GRA any outstanding taxes.
Addressing the media on Friday for the first time since his appointment, Commissioner General Statia denied the assertions made by the Opposition Leader, insisting that every person, especially those holding such high offices as Members of Parliament, have a duty to file their tax returns.
“We are here to administer the law fairly and without any political intervention. As far as I’m aware we have gotten no political intervention so far, no one has spoken to me about it,” the Commissioner General told members of the media.
Statia also quipped that “…if there was any political intervention, any targeting, it would not have been for those five persons because I am sure those five persons is a drop in the bucket.”
According to the Commissioner General, holding a public office means that one must be held at a higher standard. He noted that demand notices were similarly sent to Government Members of Parliament and other public servants.
“We need to understand that we have an obligation as public officers, MP’s or whoever it may be; we have an obligation to file their taxes on or before April 30 the following year. The Integrity Commission requires that they file,” he said.
Statia stated that it is very unfortunate that the demand letters reached the five MP’s during the examination of the Budget Estimates. According to him, the letters were sent out immediately after he occupied office.
“When I ascended this office in July, my staff knows it well, in August when I was going through the listings of persons who ought to be sent out notices Members of Parliament across the board, all Permanent Secretaries, everybody at the top of Government agencies, I instructed that they must submit all their outstanding returns,” he noted.
The PPP Members of Parliament who were served with demand notices are Dr Frank Anthony, Indra Chandarpal, Irfaan Ali, Joseph Hamilton and Juan Edghill.
The letters were dispatched on Wednesday and Thursday.
Meanwhile, lashing out at the move by the GRA, Jagdeo labelled it an act of
vindictiveness on the part of Government, either as a collective, or on the part of Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
“They think by threatening investigations to lock-up people, that they will intimidate people,” Jagdeo charged, as he defiantly declared “they are never going to muzzle us.”
According to the Opposition Leader, if the Government were to be judged by their own standards, half of the Cabinet would be placed in jail over the drug bond and D’Urban Park fiascos alone.
Calling the move by Government a diversionary tactic, the Opposition Leader told the media that the PPP/C members written to, will be responding to the GRA.
He called the action by the GRA a continuing trend on the part of Government, saying “every time we expose them, they then go after us.”
Jagdeo has since challenged the Government to, “come after us, it is no problem, you should have done that already, it has been two years, do the worse that you can do.” According to Jagdeo, the Administration has been in Office for close to two years and has completed a number of forensic audits which it has claimed, proves illegalities.
Jagdeo, said to the Administration: “Charge who you have to charge, we will not be intimidated by Government.” (Guyana Times)