Finance Minister moves to beef up GRA to tackle smuggling

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Finance Minister (left) Winston Jordan and GRA Boss, Khurshid Sattaur
Finance Minister (left) Winston Jordan and GRA Boss, Khurshid Sattaur

[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is currently in the process of strengthening its Law Enforcement and Investigative Division (LEID), as the authority moves to seriously tackle the issue of smuggling.

In a recent interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA), Finance Minister Winston Jordan explained that GRA is now focusing on several additional areas of tax collection and law enforcement, to ensure compliance with the laws.

“I have been engaging the Commissioner and the staff…on more than one occasion, on the need to tighten enforcement and collection. I had this discussion only two days ago after looking at the revenues and so on, and I pointed to a number of areas that need to be given greater attention and the Commissioner was in agreement,” Minister Jordan advised.

Presently, GRA is in the process of shifting staff and strengthening the various departments, and that these necessary changes will become visible in the coming weeks.

Referring to a recent meeting with GRA’s Commissioner General Khurshid Sattaur, Minister Jordan explained that, “I particularly asked him to beef up enforcement and anti-smuggling activities, because smuggling is still big business in this country.”

The Minister is of the view that it is time that revenue agencies have a significant part of their staff in the fields, rather than operating out of air conditioned offices.

The Minster pointed out that significant emphasis needs to be placed on enforcing the relevant laws, as this is critical to the tax collection process, specifically in the area of self-employment.

“There are a number of self-employed, particularly high profile self-employed, who are paying some taxes to avoid the prying eyes of the Commissioner, or paying no taxes at all, we know two of those high profile categories, and I have asked him to pay far more attention than he has done in the past.”

With regard to stamping out smuggling, the Minister explained that an assessment of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) was done, and it was discovered that it was a duplication of the LEID, “so we have now moved to strengthen that LEID, both in terms of training and staff, and to have a major presence in that area.”

Speaking on gold smuggling, Minister Jordan related that over time, if one were to do an assessment or take a careful observation of this sector, the findings would state the obvious.

“You don’t have to be a wizard to know that if certain amounts of fuel are being used, somebody has to be a really rich person. To be continuously in gold, using all that fuel, and you still not be coming up with anything, you don’t have to be genius to know, there are different ways in determining whether something is being smuggled or not.”

The Finance Minister is of the view that the GRA, together with other agencies, “whether it’s the police, the Guyana Gold Board, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), they have to have an inter ministry committee, that will deal definitely with the issue of smuggling, particularly with gold.” [Extracted and modified from GINA]

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