Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yarde slams customs probe-wants independent team appointed

Yarde slams customs probe-wants independent team appointed
Stabroek News news item. Sunday 10 May 2008.

Patrick Yarde
President of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Patrick Yarde, said yesterday that the investigation into alleged corruption at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) lacks credibility and was progressing with a bias towards certain employees.
Statements about the investigation being transparent and free of GRA involvement were misleading, Yarde said, adding that his union was fully aware of who were among the initial players. He said the task force was in no position to speak of transparency and credibility because its record so far indicated “only an attack on staff that perform lower level duties”.
The union is calling for the abandoning of the current process and the appointment of a credible and independent team.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing on the Polar beer scandal surrounding the GRA and Fidelity Investment Incorporated, Yarde said the union had no confidence in the “so-called” investigation. He said the union was concerned with the attitude of the revenue body and its treatment of GRA staff as the probe continued.
Yarde said the union had arrived at many of its conclusions because of the failure of GRA to respond to certain queries made, reports it received from GRA staff, and the revenue body’s refusal to permit the GPSU to lend support to GRA staff currently being grilled about their involvement in the alleged fraud.
“GPSU members were held by the police in unhealthy conditions, photographed and fingerprinted as if they were common criminals when they accompanied GRA staff for the interviews being conducted. We will not take this lightly and will press the issue until it is addressed,” Yarde stated.
According to the GPSU President, the union is not happy with the arbitrary dismissal of employees of the GRA, including those with long years of service. He said the GRA has an official on staff who appeared to be from overseas and who has been dismissing individuals after certain requests were made and without according individuals the right to fair treatment.
Since the investigation was made public, the union has written three letters to the GRA. The first letter was addressed to the Chairman of the Board of Directors and requested an urgent meeting to discuss the union’s concerns in the matter. A letter was later dispatched to the Chairman of the Investigating Committee after the union received reports of inappropriate treatment of GRA staff and lastly, the Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources, GRA, received a letter from the union that questioned the dismissal of two staff members.
There has been no response to any of the letters to date, Yarde said but added that the union would continue to write to the GRA until it received answers. The GRA has not been responding to queries from the media about the progress of the probe into the Fidelity scandal.
Yarde added that the GPSU intended to bring the issues, which it was deeply concerned about, to the attention of several international agencies and was currently drafting letters that would be sent out soon.
Further, Yarde said, the union had been engaging the government in discussions for a fully merited payment of two months tax-free incentive to staff of the GRA when the probe was launched and these talks had been stalled. This, he said, was unfortunate because a meeting had been scheduled between a team of government officials including the Minister of Finance and representatives of the union.
Since President Bharrat Jagdeo initiated the investigation just over a month ago the GRA has dismissed five staff but sources have observed that only the lower tier employees were being fired.
Jagdeo said recently that his administration was seeking help from agencies in the US with regard to the investigation.

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