GRA’s Sattaur denies disclosure of tax info, possession of data; says was assisting an embassy with internal probe

Last Updated on Friday, 22 January 2016, 12:13 by Denis Chabrol

Outgoing Commissioner-General-of-GRA-Kurshid-Sattaur

Outgoing Commissioner-General-of-GRA-Kurshid-Sattaur

Outgoing Chairman of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Kurshid Sattaur Friday denied that he disclosed taxpayer information in breach of the code of conduct and that he had a safe containing taxpayer data at his home.

Reacting to claims by GRA Chairman, Rawle Lucas earlier in the day, he emphasised that he never revealed taxpayer information to anyone. “Those are all fabrications that I find most offensive and atrocious. That is most disgusting. I never admitted to the Board that I gave out taxpayer information,” he said.

The Board has decided to sever ties with Sattaur from March 1, 2016.

While Lucas declined to say to whom Sattaur allegedly disclosed the taxpayer information, the outgoing GRA boss said the Board “put me on the spot” and he did not have an opportunity to explain the background to that decision-making body. “I was asked a particular question and I responded in a manner that did not implicate me in revealing taxpayer information to anyone,” he said.

Explaining the situation, he said months ago prior to the May 11, 2015 general elections, a diplomat asked him to facilitate a probe that the foreign government had been conducting into one of its staff members. “One-their staff is not a taxpayer of this country. One of their staff had breached a very serious protocol and had given the GRA information on someone which should not have been the case and the diplomat was asked by is government to investigate the matter,” said Sattaur.

The outgoing Commissioner General recalled that the diplomat had asked him to advise whether a document had been provided to the GRA by his staff member who was allegedly involved in “rogue activities.”  “I had no objection to doing so and I facilitated the request to determine whether the information he claimed his staff provided to GRA was in fact provided. It is not TAX!,” he said.

Sattaur believed that one of his “very senior” GRA  staff members, who was suspended for one week afterwards for falsification of documents, later reported that interaction with the embassy official to either the Board or the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan.  “This particular individual in retaliation- and who was with me at the meeting I had with the embassy officials- I took that person deliberately to be a witness to what I was discussing with the diplomat and then that person misled the Board or the politician and said that I gave the diplomat taxpayer information,” he said.

On the issue of the safe being at his home, Sattaur said his son was employed by GRA in a senior capacity and he was given responsibility for storing the tax agency’s data at another safe place offsite, a situation that the previous Board and government did not find offensive and distrustful.  But he said the storage of the data at his home was abandoned about five years ago. “My home or the safe was no longer the repository of that information…The safe never had any data,” he said. He said the infrastructure related to the safe has since been removed under the directive of the new GRA Board.

Sattaur said he has been let go as Commissioner General  after serving the tax collection agency for decades and even increasing revenue by 192 percent in 11 years.

While the GRA Board Chairman says all options, including leveling charges against Sattaur, were being contemplated,  Guyana’s former tax chief said he was also contemplating legal action. “Mr. Lucas has misrepresented significantly what I said to the Board and what I would have responded to him about what I have in my possession and I find his statements, because he is a professional person like me, to be most distasteful and offensive and I will take it up with my lawyers,” Sattaur said.