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‘Progress’ in Customs move-over

BARRY ALLEYNE, [email protected]

‘Progress’ in Customs move-over

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The BRA will soon be a custom fit.

Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler believes the troublesome transition of officers from the Customs and Excise Department over to the controversial Barbados Revenue Authority will soon be finally resolved.

However, the head of the National Union of Public Workers, Roslyn Smith, which represents the majority of the workers, said the final word rest with the workers.

In the past two years, numerous issues have prevented the smooth or otherwise transition, with Customs officials also arguing their remit is primarily that of border security, and not just collection of taxes and duties, and that a transition could affect their tenure in the Public Service if not done correctly.

Though not putting a time-frame on the resolution when questioned by the press during a loan-signing ceremony yesterday, Sinckler said officers of the BRA and Government’s Personnel Administration Department, in conjunction with the National Union of Public Workers, were all working hard towards the eventual transition.

He was speaking after the Government signed off on a special US$19 million loan yesterday with the Latin American Development Bank (CAF), which will lead to an upgrade of specialised scanning and security equipment at the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port. The project will also aid in the interfacing of all computer systems used by the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), which the Minister said he expected to put Government in a better position to collect taxes from its citizenry and prevent unscrupulous business people from not paying a variety of taxes.

“We are working internally with the relevant stakeholders to determine the final transition to the BRA. There were a number of issues we had to be dealt with. Those, in my view, have been substantially addressed.”

The minister said there are other outstanding issues, such as appointments, which are being facilitated currently.

“There is a very critical issue relating to pensions that has to be addressed, and the staff at various departments, the Auditor General’s Office, the Accountant General’s Office and the Ministry of the Civil Service have come to a conclusion with how to deal with that, so that those persons who transition are not disaffected in terms of their full pension rights. That will probably be done through an amendment to the Pensions Act, and will be dealt with very shortly,” Sinckler asserted.

When told of Sinckler’s revelation, general secretary of the NUPW, Smith, made it clear the final word would have to come from the Customs and Excise staff who make up their membership.

“They are meeting with the stakeholders to address the pensions and the transition of the staff to BRA, and when that is done they should meet with us,” Smith told the SATURDAY SUN. “I don’t know if he (Sinckler) will chair the meeting when it is held, but all these issues have to come to us first. It’s okay that he can say that the issues will be solved casually, but what if it doesn’t materialise? she asked.

“Their position still has to be put to us at the union, and there be dialogue between the parties involved. It’s not a situation that can be complete without the Customs officers playing a part. They will be the ones that will have to make the final decision on if they will transition over to the BRA,” Smith said. (BA)