THE EDITOR: In 2009, I wrote an article indicating that given our political history, a revenue authority with contract officers appointed by the political party in service is an extremely dangerous endeavour. I repeat my concerns today. The Trinidad amd Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA) must be opposed by every patriot.
Are citizens concerned about the transfer from the Board of Inland Revenue and the Customs to the TTRA? It can be considered irresponsible almost dangerous for any government to assign a corporation to be responsible for over 90 per cent of the country’s revenue. The implications may be scary. How can any responsible citizenry allow its government to transfer the responsibility of managing the nation’s purse to a board of political appointees without the oversight of the public service? Already there are threats to seize citizen’s property, audit the businesses of specific individuals and refuse approval for import.
Consider the possibilities: a board appointed to manage the affairs of the TTRA can feel obliged to the political directorate since their job is dependent on those appointing them. Public servants are not obligated to any political body as they are appointed by the Public Service Commission and are obligated to the State, not the ruling party. How can any responsible citizen allow the wealth of our nation to escape the scrutiny of the Ministry of Finance? A board, not public servants, will be responsible for the operation of a corporation which will be responsible for managing the income of a nation. How can citizens ensure accountability? What about Customs? At present, there is the perception that regardless of one’s political persuasion, one will be treated according to the law when importing or exporting goods. Under a politically appointed board, customs officers, whose jobs will be managed by a corporation chosen by political appointees, can feel obliged to treat members of the ruling party differently from other citizens.
The present government may scoff at the suggestions of impropriety since they may feel that their administration is staffed with incorruptible individuals seeking the national interest. One can argue that since an administration must get a mandate from the electorate every five years, there is the possibility that a new government of not-so-good individuals can be appointed to manage the TTRA and access the nation’s wealth without public service oversight. Such an unscrupulous regime can prevent customs officers from intercepting drugs entering our country, they can allow friends and acquaintances to import goods, arms and ammunitions without the scrutiny that is required under the present system. The possibilities of impropriety, nepotism, money laundering, irresponsible spending, lack of accountability, loyalty to political party rather than country, international black-market trade, currency manipulation and other poor border supervision exist more so under a corporation appointed by a political party in power than a public service whose loyalty is tied to the State. These are not issues that should be allowed to escape the scrutiny of our citizens.
Steve Alvarez via email