Stop making excuses and put the necessary systems in place!
This stern advice today from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to the Ministry and Transport and Works in light of a series of systems failures and equipment breakdowns that have plagued the Licensing Authority in recent months.
The situation has negatively impacted the renewal of drivers’ licences, leaving some motorists complaining that they had been reported by police.
However, speaking to journalists this morning on the sidelines of the third Sub-Regional Caribbean Public Procurement Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Sinckler pointed out that the necessary provisions had been made in this year’s Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2016/2017 for the purchase of equipment by the Licensing Authority to allow it to effectively carry out its duties.
While suggesting that it would be wrong to blame the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) for the systems failures, Sinckler, who has ministerial responsibility for BRA and by the extension the Licensing Authority, which falls under the BRA umbrella, said: “We just have to stop making excuses for these things. Get the machines [and] get them in place. If there are not enough cashiers, get the cashiers and get the system working.”
The Minister of Finance further pointed out that BRA’s primary mandate was the collection of Government revenues, adding, “the entire process of having a licence, getting it printed and so on is a function of the Ministry of Transport and Works.
“So people have been incorrectly blaming the Barbados Revenue Authority for some of those challenges. Now if you say we don’t have enough cashiers and there is a back up at the cashier point, now that is a BRA problem and that would have to be addressed,” he said, while noting that the buildings in which Licensing Authority currently operates belong to the Ministry of Transport and Works.
“We are not passing the buck in that particular regard because it is all one Government; so therefore they should all function properly. [However], if the machines have broken down, and my understanding is that there have been challenges with machines, in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2016/2017, provision has been made for the procurement of machines. [Therefore], the relevant people should procure the machines and get them in place,” he stressed.
At the same time, Sinckler said Government continued to work towards the implementation of an online platform, which would be able to accommodate all revenue collection agencies.
“So the idea is to get a common platform where all of them can operate across one tax system, and you have one taxpayer ID, one licence and so forth and so on. They are working on that, and CAF [Development Bank of Latin America] is here this week with a mission team because they are providing some grant and loan financing for the purchase of a complete system. So we are hoping we can have all of that in place before the end of the year, as far as that is concerned,” he disclosed.
In relation to agency accepting credit card payments when the new system is implemented, Sinckler said Government was working with the commercial banks to ensure it was not a “a financial burden”, since having thousands of people paying via that method could result in higher credit card fees.
“In fact, earlier this year I was forced to take a supplementary to Parliament . . . the total of the supplementary was $17 million, but the significant part of that was to pay for the payments associated with credit card transactions that are not from Government credit cards but from the credit card transactions for the payment of taxes to Government, and that was over and above what we had already provisioned in the Estimates for 2015/2016. So it is convenient and efficient, but not inexpensive,” Sinckler added. [email protected]