Daily Observer (Jamaica)

Hus­tling, cor­rup­tion ram­pant out­side Cross Roads tax of­fice

- BY ALI­CIA DUNKLEY WIL­LIS Slovenia · Jamaica

USTLER” and “cor­rup­tion” were the by­words among dis­grun­tled cus­tomers to the Cross Roads Col­lec­torate in St An­drew, last Wed­nes­day, af­ter spend­ing hours in line whipped by in­ter­mit­tent rain, watch­ing as other in­di­vid­u­als entered and ex­ited with­out hav­ing to wait.

“Ah di se­cu­rity a call dem in, none a dem peo­ple yah nuh deh yah when the senior drop and hurt him­self, dem don’t si dat, a from af­ter 11 dis mawnin mi innna dis ya line,” one cus­tomer who had had his fill quar­relled when, upon reach­ing the top of the line some mo­ments af­ter 3:00 pm, he along with oth­ers were still bun­dled wait­ing to en­ter.

“Wi need to post some a dem pic­ture yah in­nuh, meck dem si wah a gwaan, no so­cial dis­tanc­ing,” one in­di­vid­ual grum­bled. The lo­ca­tion, which is bor­dered by the side­walk serv­ing the area, boasts only a small ban­is­ter with a short ramp on one side and steps on the other which serves as the un­com­fort­able wait­ing area for cus­tomers who on some days have to en­dure the pelt­ing sun and rain on other days.

In­di­vid­u­als us­ing the of­fice were di­rected by a guard on duty to two lines, one pur­port­edly for per­sons reg­is­ter­ing their ve­hi­cles while an­other line serves those pur­port­edly pay­ing taxes and ac­cess­ing other ser­vices. Those re­new­ing their mo­tor ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion, a ser­vice which can­not be done on­line, tend to wait for hours on end.

“Let off a money and yuh get to go in,” one fe­male cus­tomer of­fered sar­cas­ti­cally.

“Dem a go in wid all three, four pile a supmn so the cashier busy and nah pay no at­ten­tion to the line,” one man de­clared. Signs posted on the in­side of the build­ing in­di­cate that cus­tomers are al­lowed no more than three trans­ac­tions each.

“It sim­ple fam­ily, dem teck dem fren tings an meck dem money first (be­fore they at­tend to wait­ing cus­tomers). Mi come here the other day and is the same thing, it need to change, it need to start from in there so, this need reg­u­la­tion,” an­other in­di­vid­ual chimed in.

“Couple years aback when di tax of­fice di ovah deh so a se­cu­rity look pon mi and tell mi if mi waan get through quick mi haffi pay him two grand...so a dem tings here a gwaan. A di same ting a gwaan yas­soh now, him weh stand up deh so now him a one a dem, ev­ery time mi come yah him deh here,” one cus­tomer added, point­ing to an in­di­vid­ual who made light of the dis­com­fort of the in­di­vid­u­als wait­ing.

“Ev­ery­body know seh Cross Roads Tax of­fice once yuh come here 8:30 in the morn­ing yuh get through quick quick but afta 12 and one a pure prob­lem. All dem yah peo­ple inna dis ya line all night be­fore ooonuh leff ya,” he said glee­fully. About an hour ear­lier, the crafty man had drawn the ire of cus­tomers af­ter he at­tempted to plant a male cus­tomer who had just ar­rived at the top of the line declar­ing to him that he was giv­ing him a space that he had him­self va­cated some mo­ments prior.

Ea­gle-eyed cus­tomers, how­ever, chal­lenged him as to the truth of that state­ment.

Some in­di­vid­u­als in the line al­leged see­ing cash ex­changed.

“Mi nuh know the ex­act money, them ei­ther give yuh a space in the line or them have them link in­side, them juss call, ev­ery God day it hap­pen, mi nuh have no money a gi nuh waste man in­nuh bredda, dem go look work. When dem get it (money) dem go buy sex and smoke and come back a morn­ing again, that’s all them do with them money,” one in­di­vid­ual said.

One 69-year-old in a leg brace was among those stand­ing for hours un­til an­gry cus­tomers de­manded that he be shown some le­niency. He was grudg­ingly al­lowed en­try by the se­cu­rity on duty.

They ques­tioned how it was that other in­di­vid­u­als sup­pos­edly con­duct­ing other trans­ac­tions were al­lowed in with­out much of a wait. Oth­ers were ob­served ap­proach­ing the en­trance and beck­on­ing to the se­cu­rity guard and af­ter con­ver­sa­tion were al­lowed in. Oth­ers upon men­tion­ing the names of in­di­vid­u­als on the in­side were al­lowed en­trance.

The painful de­lay did not show any sign of eas­ing un­til in­di­vid­u­als, whom the Ob­server later learnt were part of an un­der­cover au­dit team. ar­rived at the lo­ca­tion and entered the build­ing.

One of­fi­cial with whom the Ob­server later spoke con­firmed that the sus­pi­cions of cor­rup­tion and pay­ments un­der the counter were not un­founded. In ad­di­tion, the Ob­server was told that in­di­vid­u­als were even al­lowed to en­ter the build­ing with­out be­ing sub­jected to tem­per­a­ture checks or sani­ti­sa­tion, even though the guard on duty was armed with a tem­per­a­ture gauge, and a por­ta­ble sani­tiser was mounted at the en­trance. Ac­cord­ing to the source, in­di­vid­u­als at the of­fice be­gan to toe the line when they re­alised that the au­di­tors had entered the build­ing and were ob­serv­ing their oper­a­tions. At that point the line which had been at a vir­tual stand­still for hours be­gan to move.

One well-placed source, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, con­firmed that there was a lu­cra­tive mar­ket for a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als who through sleight of hand of­fered in­ter­ested cus­tomers prime spa­ces in the lines for a sum or had them placed in­side with­out wait­ing for any pro­longed pe­riod. In fact, staff have been ob­served ex­it­ing the build­ing to es­cort in­di­vid­u­als in­side to com­plete trans­ac­tions while oth­ers have been seen tak­ing doc­u­ments from other in­di­vid­u­als on the out­side and tak­ing them in­side for pro­cess­ing.

“All these things are hap­pen­ing. The chal­lenge we have been hav­ing is these guys on the out­side, we don’t know how to deal with them; these per­sons are mak­ing a liv­ing from it, they are rude and dis­re­spect­ful. Bear­ers do it too. The cor­rup­tion over here is se­ri­ous, ter­ri­ble,” the source stated.

In 2017, four in­di­vid­u­als from that lo­ca­tion and a busi­ness­woman were ar­rested for their al­leged in­volve­ment in a ma­jor fraud ring at Tax Ad­min­is­tra­tion Ja­maica (TAJ).

The Ma­jor Or­gan­ised Crime and Anti-cor­rup­tion Agency (MOCA) and the Fi­nan­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Di­vi­sion as­sisted the Rev­enue Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion (RPD) in con­duct­ing sev­eral oper­a­tions across sev­eral parishes, dur­ing which the five were held.

“These oper­a­tions are sur­round­ing a ma­jor fraud al­legedly com­mit­ted at a col­lec­torate of Tax Ad­min­is­tra­tion Ja­maica (TAJ). Sev­eral per­sons have since been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with this scheme, which has de­prived the rev­enue of mil­lions of dol­lars,” a MOCA state­ment said at the time.


 ??  ?? Peo­ple join the queue out­side the Cross Roads Col­lec­torate in St An­drew.
Peo­ple join the queue out­side the Cross Roads Col­lec­torate in St An­drew.

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