It’s hard not to think of this as political pantomime – this Kurshid Sattaur – anointed head of Guyana Revenue Authority by a President who had every power but that of making this appointment legal.
Maybe the President, Jagdeo, knew; maybe Kurshid knew. But whatever was known between those two didn’t stop either one from making a mockery of the position at the expense of the trust and the coffers of the nation.
There is a litany of improprieties committed by this office; not the least of which was the redistribution of tax information on certain individuals for political leverage. By Sattaur’s own admission, Minister Khemraj Ramjattan’s file was one that was selected for this process; not at random.
The assignment of tax brackets based on a person’s affiliation with the government under People’s Progressive Party rule was more than a whispered conversation, as many were known to receive exemptions upon presentation of notes or letters or when phone calls were made. If prescribed standards existed, they were selectively applied.
And though Sattaur confessed that he was forced to promote individuals against his better judgment, he never quite said who forced him to hire his son Imran in the Audit Division as a manager, his other son, Ryad, in the Information Technology Department as an engineer, his daughter Safiyaah as an intern, his niece Anisha, in the Liability Section, which handles clearance forms for firearms license, gratuity etc., his nephew Javid Raveesh, in the Tax Exemption Department and his nephew in law, Abraham Sahib, married to his niece, Anisha.
The embattled Sattaur is one who seems to have evaded his own Agency’s Value Added Tax imposition, too, when it was discovered that the Toyota Prado he imported, was grossly undervalued to escape due payment of its value added tax.
Things become even more nebulous.
During the government’s forensic audit, a safe containing sensitive Guyana Revenue Authority data was found at Sattaur’s home; while a closer look at his tenure found that he had resigned since 2011 and paid himself a pension which he backdated to 2007 and collected while on active employment. The pension is, reportedly, the amount 12 million, which Mr. Sattaur collected along with his monthly salary. At his home too, were four vehicles, the property of the GRA, which were being used by the Sattaurs for Sattaur business – not government business – and the tax payers paid for this convenience.
While the government is to be commended in its forensic findings on Sattaur, there is lots of agonizing over the ramifications and intricacies that say he is entitled to benefits from the Ministry of Public Service and Guyana Revenue Authority’s pension scheme.
The audit is, inherently, one that is conducted to verify compliance and correctness, to ascertain the trail of tax dollars and, as such, has strict scope of operation and a mandatory guideline.
But it is difficult, defies moral basis, to explain to those who gave fiduciary responsibility to this public official, that, in as much as there is so much evidence that he, Sattaur, deliberately defrauded the people, abused his authority, pillaged, plundered and pirated what he was entrusted with, he is still entitled to financial benefits in the form of pension; possibly two.
Many are angry, aggravated, that high crimes never seem to receive parallel punishment, while those who commit comparative misdemeanors feel the brunt of society’s angst through its legal channels.
There is now a Sattaur Watch Group observing the outcome of this Audit, particularly as it pertains to him receiving pension benefits as compensation for duties executed while serving in those capacities. Chairman Rawle Lucas has already declared that Sattaur has met the criteria to receive pension under the Public Service Ministry but a pension from Guyana Revenue Authority remains questionable.
The public continues to ask – albeit from a stance of unsophisticated knowledge of these accounting intricacies and convoluted political practices – how could Sattaur be entitled to benefits from an appointment that was made by a President who lacked the power to assign the appointment and by extension, pension benefits ? How could benefits be paid to an employee who resigned from a portfolio and was never officially reinstated in the function?
If the hammer of justice does fall on this one, we will not be surprised if the defense of Kurshid Sattaur will be that he is beyond prosecution because his was never a legal appointment, in the first place.