GRA’s billion-dollar container scanners inoperable


…as warehouse dishonesty points to massive tax evasion – Audit Report

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) in the past five years purchased two container scanners to improve its

The now inoperable GRA container scanner
The now inoperable GRA container scanner

monitoring capabilities at a cost of over US$6 million, but one is currently not operational and is, in fact, unserviceable, while the other touted as a mobile device will now have to find a stationary resting place to be shielded from the elements of weather.
The startling state of affairs was uncovered by Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who during the course of auditing the national books for 2015, found that both of the container scanners were posing problems for the GRA administration.
The 2015 Audit Report was made public this past week by Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, when he reconvened the sittings of the Assembly.
According to Sharma in his report, in May 2010, the Administration acquired an electronic container scanner at a cost of US$1 million for the purpose of 100 per cent container scanning.
The scanner, which was placed into operation in May 2011, was three years later determined to be inoperable on October 18, 2014.
This was said to be due to a loss of power to the device’s electrical cabinet.
The Auditor General, during the course of his audits, found too that another scanner, which was acquired in November 2013 at a total cost of US$5.3 million and placed into operation on January 4, 2014, also became inoperable on June 18, 2016.
At the time of the report being released in September of this year, “the position remained the same”.
Sharma in his audit report has provided an explanation proffered by the GRA, which said the “first scanner is unserviceable and is not cost-effective to repair”.
With regard to the mobile scanner, the GRA informed the audit office that this one “malfunctioned because of its constant exposure to the weather conditions”.
According to answers provided by the GRA, “the scanner was repaired, but currently the Authority is in the process of identifying a permanent location” for it.
The Audit Office has since recommended that the GRA continue in its efforts to identify a suitable location for the scanner that would protect it from the rigours of nature.

Warehouse corruption
The Auditor General has also flagged several incidents of dishonesty at warehouses across the country which has led to instances where the payment of duties and taxes could not be verified to the tune of more than $100 million.
Sharma, in his 2015 report on the accounts held by the GRA, found that there were 34 private warehouses in operation during the period under review – 17 of which were subjected to physical inspections by the Audit Office between April and July this year.
The Audit Office, during the course of its investigations, found that 36 pieces of equipment and 17 vehicles valued in total $370.9 million were not found in five warehouses operated by one importer, and there was no evidence that the equipment and vehicles were released by the tax administration.
Compounding the situation, the Auditor General further found that there was no evidence that duties and taxes of approximately $89.7 million were paid.
According to the Auditor, “Section 100 of the Customs Act, Chapter 82:01 prohibits a warehouse owner or keeper or any person in his employ from opening or gaining access to a warehouse except in the presence or with the knowledge and consent of an officer of the administration.”
The Auditor General highlighted too that a total of 44 pieces of equipment valued at $312 million, with estimated taxes payable totalling $50 million, were removed from four warehouses in which they were deposited and transferred to another four without the permission of the GRA Commissioner General.
“The removal of warehoused goods from one warehouse to another without the permission or knowledge of the Commissioner General represents a breach of Section 115 of the Customs Act,” the Audit Office said.
Further checks revealed that 10 pieces of equipment and five vehicles physically verified in three warehouses were not traced to the warehouse registers maintained by the administration.
“Efforts to ascertain the value of the equipment and vehicles proved futile, since it could not be determined the year the items were warehoused and the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) of each piece of equipment and vehicle.”