Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Kurshid Sattaur responds to an article in the Sunday edition (July 20) of the Kaieteur News entitled ‘Family Affair exists at GRA…Sattaur employs two sons, daughter, nephew niece’.
At first reading of this article, I was most appalled at the level of the depraved mind who would choose to expose my children’s personal details in the public domain, with today’s high crime wave that exists in our beleaguered society; for its easy work to establish that they are on an annual basis millionaires many times over.
I have given the benefit of the doubt to the owner of the newspaper, as I would not want to associate this cowardly act to a person who is supposedly an upright, principled and most decent individual and who from time to time would beg for my assistance to employ family members, friends and associates of his for work at my agency, and who often times request my assistance to expedite matters; and I even go so far as giving him tax breaks on goods and supplies he imports for his business, all within the ambit of the law.
I felt very much saddened too over the fact that the information could have emanated from one of my perhaps trusted employees at the GRA, not for a moment wanting to believe that it’s tit for tat. I was reliably informed by a confidential source that a customs staff, name withheld for obvious reasons, as I don’t know to what extent this individual will go to have the decision to have him audited through our risk management system overturned, and not through a decision of my son, the audit manager, instrumentality.
This flaw of having a junior manager such as my son, sign the initial engagement letter only came to my attention recently after this same Customs officer was overheard making threats and, I was informed, even wrote the chairman of the Governing Board concerning exposure of my family working at GRA. In my time when I was a manager of audit many moons ago, it was always the practice of such letters being signed by the Head of the Division or its Senior Manager. Incidentally these individuals whose salaries tower astronomically and make my children’s combined salary pale into insignificance, are paid adequately to take such risks of retribution as would appear to be the case.
GRA has a policy of seriously reprimanding such persons for exposing private and confidential information; and if only for the purpose of protecting other employees from similar exposure in the media, I want to assure this customs officer who appears to have sterling principles, high ethical standards and moral rectitude and who has all the details accurate, even up to the last dollar, has not heard the last of me in this response. It should be noted that the GRA has a professional mechanism to investigate and address these unauthorized disclosures. The public should note with consternation the possibility of disclosure of their confidential information by such an individual, and as such the GRA will be compelled to act to protect the interest of the public.
For the benefit of Mr. Harmon, I would like to point out that my children were not in any way given any special or peculiar treatment, not in terms of position, salary or status. Both of my sons referred to in the article have worked in junior level positions for several years before being promoted to their current positions, not unlike all other employees of the GRA and perhaps to their detriment. They are not paid any special salary as all persons in similar positions are paid exactly the same. They were subjected to competitive interviews before being employed and are eminently qualified for the positions for which they were employed and currently hold.
These interviews are conducted by an independent panel and given a score rating based on numerous criteria including education/qualifications, experience, communication skills etc. Appointments to the positions they now hold have to be sanctioned and approved by the Governing Board of the Guyana Revenue Authority and are not appointments that can be made by me unilaterally or at all. Furthermore these promotions have to be recommended by the functional heads of their respective departments, persons who are professionals and highly competent in their respective fields. It should be noted that the GRA, and indeed Guyana, has found it difficult to attract and retain these skills. And despite having other opportunities, my children were encouraged to stay and serve their country, our beloved country.
For the benefit of Mr. Harmon I should indicate that Imran is one of a few Chatered Certified Accountants the GRA has been able to attract and is the only ACCA qualified that holds such a junior management position at the GRA. Riyad has been employed with the GRA for in excess of 6 years and is adequately qualified and experienced for the position he now holds. Notwithstanding being adequately qualified, he continues to upgrade his qualifications by pursuing further studies in his field. By this point it should become apparent and evident that there has been no conflict of interest, no peculiar treatment offered to my children or any impropriety as insinuated by the article.
Despite the foregoing, further care was taken to ensure there is no conflict or apparent conflict existed. Special care was exercised to ensure that none of them reports to my office, that I am not their supervisory officer, I am in no way involved in reviewing their work output, I am not in a position to review their work, I do not evaluate their work or performance, nor do I direct their workflow or assignments. Additionally, there is no conflict of interest since I am a salaried employee whose only fiduciary or pecuniary interest is in my salary. Similarly my children referred to in the article are salaried employees, employed in positions for which they are adequately or overqualified and earn salaries that are consistent with that earned by other persons at the same or similar level.
Therefore the suggestions and insinuations by Mr. Harmon as expressed in the article are not only baseless, unfounded and spurious, but are offending to and calls into question the integrity and professionalism of not only myself, but the senior functional heads of the GRA, the members of the Governing Board and my children.
Mr. Harmon obviously has his work to do and if he chooses to gain political mileage at the expense of exposing my children’s life to danger, then I can only be consoled by the thought that if anything detrimental befalls my children, and may God forbid, M. Harmon a lawyer, and here I would not want to reveal anything I know of this honourable person’s worth, but I would imagine like the rest of the fraternity of the legal profession Mr. Harmon can pay any damages the court will be asked to award.
I would however want to assure Mr. Harmon that I Do Not Intend to publish alongside any advertisement placed in the media in the future, that the children and relatives of Mr. Sattaur should not apply. They are all protected by the Constitution of this country that allows for equal treatment under the law and equal opportunities for employment. I would however hope that the article catches the attention of the heads of the International Organisations in Guyana such as Caricom and the European Union, IADB etc so that my children can be quickly absorbed in their employ, as I would rather suspect that were they to seek Employment in the private sector and further if they were to be paid out of the public treasury you would hear even more vociferous calls of conflict of interest.
I collect the revenues from the private sector and pay theses revenues into the public treasury, so, in principle, according to Mr. Harmon’s argument, they must not benefit from such monies. Would it not represent a conflict of interest if my children were to be employed by private businesses who are required to pay taxes to the GRA, or have to be audited by the GRA, or if they were to establish private tax consultancy services that represent taxpayers against the GRA? By this reasoning, my children should not be permitted to work! So in the interest of landing my children well paid jobs in these international organisations, let me inform the public that my son who is in the audit department of GRA has the ACCA like his father does and will presently complete a Masters in Business Administration, and my other son in the Information Technology Department of GRA, holds a degree from a prestigious university in India.
I trust that this satisfies Mr. Harmon and God bless Mr. Customs Officer for helping to secure for my children proper paying jobs with international organisations in Guyana. Incidentally, my third child who was a top graduating student in Information Technology at UG, works at the Office of the Auditor General and he also would like to be considered for a top paying job with an International Organisation.