by Zena Henry
The new government seems to be scraping every bit of loose cash the country has lying around and is not leaving out the corporate perks that were generously handed out by the former Administration. This Minister of State, Joseph Harmon believes is “robbing the country of revenue.”
He told media workers at a press briefing Thursday June 11, that the new government is, “renewing the strength of the entire democratic institution,” and in doing so will be going back to the law on all matters involving finance.
He said of the areas to be looked at is the matter of sole sourcing, the granting of concessions and tax-related holidays. In so doing, the National Procurement and Tender Board is in for drastic review with Finance Minister Winston Jordan already proposing changes to clean up its operation. Harmon said, “Definitely, that board has to go…,” indicating that the new government is not satisfied with the way it has operated.
The hot topic of sole sourcing surfaced when an associate of former President Bharrat Jagdeo was accused of being the sole provider of drugs to the government because of his affiliation. Harmon said that while the New GPC will not be attacked or targeted, that company’s contract will be reviewed to ensure that the law is being followed.
The Minister was adamant however that from his view of things, “Sole sourcing was pervasive in the (former) administration. From small things to big things sole sourcing took place.” He noted too that, “Ever since, I’m at my desk I have had several applications for sole sourcing; I said that is not this administration. Go do it right and come back.”
As it relates to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Harmon said the agency is up for forensic audit and one of the areas to be addressed is the reduction of their power to grant concessions. While in opposition the government criticized GRA for the manner in which it granted concessions, with locals usually complaining of not getting a leveled playing field compared to foreign investors.
“Procedures for the granting of concessions; we will need to have a fresh look at that to ensure that these concessions do not rob the country of revenue.”“If you grant everybody duty free concession and then nobody pays the duty it robs the country of revenue which should be spent on other things.”
“We have to make sure the government systems work, that the individuals do not grant things they really don’t have the authority to grant, and in cases where concessions were given, they must be review at a higher level.”
Tax evasion was also an area pointed to when speaking of GRA’s ability. “We are going to make sure the revenues that should go into the Guyana Revenue Authority go there and are not filtered away on other things.” He pointed out however, that the government is “certainly not” working with persons accused of malfeasance, when asked about players who may have allowed the agency’s ability to deteriorate.
Harmon said all contracts will be reviewed in time, “and those not reviewed will not be renewed.”