Senior government officials met yesterday with employees of the departments which the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) will replace, to answer queries and allay any fears they might have regarding their employment with the new statutory corporation.

Those attending the meeting, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, were Acting Head of the Civil Service, Lucene Wharton-Isaac; Acting Permanent Secretaries??in the Special Projects Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Margaret Sivers; in the Ministry of Finance, Nancy Headley; and in the Ministry of Civil Service, Alyson Forte; and Chief Personnel Officer, Gail Atkins.

At the end of the 75-minute meeting, Ms. Sivers explained that most option forms had been given to the employees last week and the senior public servants felt it was necessary to give the staff an opportunity to raise any issue and seek clarification in relation to the option letters and the implication of them being seconded to the BRA.

???I think the meeting accomplished its objectives in that it helped them to understand that even though we speak about establishing an organisation on April 1, we do not expect it to be perfect by that date. We will continue to communicate and discuss issues as we go forward, but it is imperative and necessary that we at least take the step on April 1 to bring the staff together. Once we do the actual integration, they have a two-year period in which to make their decision with respect to their long-term employment with the Barbados Revenue Authority.

???We are putting in place procedures to enable us to at least talk to each other, even though we would not be in one integrated location. We are putting the necessary information technology infrastructure in place to allow the various systems to be accessible for all locations and we are carrying out minor refurbishment of some of the locations to enable the integration of the different tax administration systems.??We are also putting in place the new functions that will underpin all of this, such as the??Corporate Office, so that come April 1, we would have a functioning transition structure as we seek to merge the various agencies,??? she stated.

Ms. Sivers disclosed that systems had been implemented to ensure employees received answers to their questions. She pointed out that the Heads of Department in the merging organisations were to identify an officer in each location who could collect queries for submission to her office.

???Failing that, however, we have made ourselves accessible because we do recognise that staff will have many questions??? Persons are contacting us and we will continue to have meetings as we go forward. Once letters are returned to us and we start assigning persons to the various functions, we will begin having discussions with groups in particular areas,??? she promised.

The proclamation of the Barbados Revenue Authority on April 1 means it will consolidate the functions of the Department of Inland Revenue, the Land Tax Department, the VAT and Excise Divisions of the Customs and Excise Department and the revenue collecting aspect of the Barbados Licensing Authority.

This new entity is expected to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the current tax collection systems, as well as the system of expenditure management. It is also expected to enhance the financial stability and sustainability of the tax collection system, thereby improving compliance, reducing tax leakages and increasing the level of tax revenue collection.

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