Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority Mr Khurshid Sattaur erred gravely when he shared taxpayers’ information with the administration. However irrestible the demand, he ought to have made it clear that he would not comply. Instead, he compromised himself, his office and his profession. A complaint of professional misconduct was made to the local and international professional accounting bodies but was later withdrawn. There was therefore no adverse finding against him.
Seven months into a new government, the public learns that Mr Sattaur has been sent on leave to facilitate a forensic audit of the authority. I accept that, even with the apparent inconsistency.
What I do not find acceptable is the humiliating treatment he is reported to have received from persons from the Revenue Authority. If the report of leave is correct ‒ and there is no reason to doubt this ‒ Mr Sattaur remains Commissioner General and a member of the Governing Board of the GRA. He does not cease to be either because he is on leave. It is rare and improper for persons on leave to have their homes visited by their subordinates and computers and firearm taken away from them. In the case of a taxman for whom threats to life are an occupational hazard, the danger is obvious and is recognised in his being provided with a guard and a firearm licence.
I am concerned about the treatment of Mr Sattaur and about the integrity and reputation of the Guyana Revenue Authority. The first goes beyond the professional relationship Ram & McRae has had with Mr Sattaur over two decades as he tried to maximize government revenues while the firm sought to ensure that its clients were properly represented.
Like every citizen, Mr Sattaur enjoys certain basic rights which no government and no employer should violate. The episode surrounding his leave and the visit to his home not only borders on violating those rights but amounts to constructive dismissal.
The tax collection agency of any country must enjoy the confidence of citizens, be free from political direction and control, and be allowed to operate independently and professionally. If confidence in any one of these goes, everything else goes, with irreparable consequences. As a public body, the Governing Board of the GRA has a duty to justify its actions to the citizens of the country. Neither silence nor aloofness is acceptable.
Finance Minister Mr Winston Jordan, who has ministerial responsibility for the GRA and the terms and conditions of the appointment of the Commissioner General, must ensure that that the reputation and integrity of the GRA are maintained.