GRA establishes Interim Customs Petroleum Unit, Petroleum Audit Depart
─Announces $230B in revenue for 2019
─Reforms boost efficiency, remove potential for bribery and illegality
DPI, Guyana, Friday, January 31, 2020
The Guyana Revenue Authority has established an Interim Customs Petroleum Unit and a Petroleum Audit Department to have better oversight of the country’s booming oil and gas sector.
Deputy Commissioner-General responsible for Customs Lancelot Wills revealed on Friday that the Interim Customs Petroleum Unit will be tasked with overseeing and monitoring production, while the Petroleum Audit Department will focus on taxation.
He said that negotiations are ongoing with ExxonMobil to have GRA staffers accommodated and equipped to monitor operations on the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel, for example, to ensure that Guyana gets its fair share of revenues, in accordance with contractual obligations.
It was explained that once internet connectivity challenges are surmounted, a CCTV feed will be live streaming video to observe what transpires offshore.
The second lift of Guyana’s light sweet crude, which ExxonMobil is entitled to, is expected early February, according to Wills, “our next lift is slated for tentatively the 3 -4 of February and we are in a full state of readiness.”
In the absence of the live stream, officers are being transported offshore, via ExxonMobil’s helicopter service.
Commissioner-General, Godfrey Statia explained that at least four persons have been requested to be offshore at all times, on rotating shift system.
“We now have identified the persons who will be going there, whether they should be there weekly …we are working out that modality, the office space and the types of computers and all sort of things.”
Meanwhile, GRA is reporting revenues to just $230Billion for 2019, a 13.8 percent increase over 2018.
The Commissioner-General explained that the increased revenue resulted from the widening of the tax base, greater efficiencies and various reforms implemented.
He pointed out for example “the sizable revenue growth” from $160Billion in 2016 to the current amount.
Statia also revealed that plans are underway to implement updated driver’s licences. These will feature encrypted security features and sturdier finish for greater durability. There will be an increased cost of $5,000 from the current $2,000 but this will be offset by the fact that the licence will be valid for five years instead of three.
Improvements continued with the reduction of average clearance times for goods moving from six days at the start of 2019 to three days as of January 2020.
For increased security and efficiency, more scanners will be installed. According to Statia, Ogle’s Eugene Correia International Airport will get one and another will supplement one already in service at the GRA’s Lombard Street facility. Barrel scanners will be installed at GNIC and John Fernandes Limited wharves.
These will be operational by year-end. Additional scanners will be operationalised at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, to increase the efficient clearance of incoming passengers, particularly those accessing the ‘Nothing to Declare’ lines. There will also be duty-free stamps for items purchased overseas by returning travellers.
As part of efforts to reduce smuggling, the GRA implemented an Excise Stamp to track and trace alcohol products. These are placed on products after the relevant taxes have been paid and enable easier checks for compliance.
Other reforms will see the implementation of ASYCUDA World (AW). Part of this system will see documents being scanned and stored in three secure locations.
This will enable the GRA to access critical and up to date information without the need for persons having to repeatedly photo-copy documents when accessing services. This comes as the GRA moves towards a paperless operation, according to Statia.
The AW programme is an integrated customs management system which was developed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to aid with the modernization of manifests, customs declarations, accounting procedures, transit, suspense procedures, among others.
With this application, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) aims to take Guyana to a higher level in trade facilitation by the standardization of procedures along with the implementation of international norms and best practices. The system has been implemented in over 90 countries and allows for the minimization of administrative costs to the business community.
According to the GRA’s Commissioner-General, “these reforms boost efficiency and remove the potential for bribery and illegal actions, whilst increasing revenues as it ensures that all pay their fair share of taxes.”