A policy adjustment by the government has altered the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority (TTRA) bill from a special majority to one that now needs only a simple majority to be passed into law. The pronouncement was made by Finance Minister, Colm Imbert in the Senate yesterday as he moved the bill entitled: “An act to establish the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority.”
Given 45 minutes to present because he was the mover of the bill, Imbert said and repeated: “Except for one policy change, the bill before you is virtually identical to the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Bill, 2019.” He indicated that the 2019 version that was passed in the Upper House with the help of the Independent Senators was the complete approach to a Revenue Authority but also acknowledged the lack of opposition support in the Lower House that forced the government to change one aspect to the bill in 2021.
The Finance Minister noted the one difference between the 2019 bill and the one presently before the Senate for debate was the establishment of an Enforcement Division. He explained: “The purpose of this Enforcement Division is to exercise those enforcement powers accepting the enforcement of revenue laws by way of civil proceedings found under the revenue laws by a cadre of public officers appointed by the Public Service Commission.” Imbert also said that the Deputy Director-General of enforcement, who would head the Enforcement Division would be appointed by the Public Service Commission and not by the Finance Minister or any other politician.
However, speaking for her 30 minutes behind the enclosure in Parliament, United National Congress, Senator, Jayanti Lutchmedial resisted the notion put forward by the Diego Martin North East Member of Parliament. Lutchmedial referred to the Deputy Director General’s position as “window dressing” when she stated, “This creature that they have created called the Deputy Director-General of enforcement is the epitome, the actual personification of window dressing.”
She continued, “The Government would have us believe that they have transferred all these powers into this person. This independent creature who would head the Enforcement Division.” Lutchmedial pointed out that that there was a fine print that the Government did not mention to the Parliament which indicated that other positions could be created as the TTRA Board sees necessary. She likened the arrangement to a Police Commissioner who was independently selected but was overseeing a staff that was politically appointed and asked the Government to explain the powers that would be exercised by these mystery appointments that the bill provided for.
Before the reading of the TTRA bill in Parliament yesterday, the Public Services Association President, Watson Duke vowed to challenge the legality of the bill at the courts if it is passed into law.