RPD steadfast in safeguarding country’s revenue
KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Revenue Protection Department (RPD) remains committed to safeguarding the country’s revenue.
It was formed in the 1990s, primarily to address what was perceived to be rampant fraud and corruption at the Customs Department. The need for the RPD was also recognised by the Barents Report, commissioned by the Government of Jamaica.
Over the years, the role of the RPD has expanded to include not just issues dealing with fraud and corruption relating to Customs but other revenue agencies and tax types, including general consumption Tmtax (GCT), stamp duty & transfer tax, income and property taxes.
Head of the RPD, Cranston Morgan, who serves as the commissioner, said the primary role of the RPD is to investigate, detect and deter fraud and corruption of government revenue.
“The three main things are to lead investigations into fraud and corruption against revenue, to assist other revenue departments in doing these investigations and assist in implementing programmes that will deter or detect fraud or corruption,” Morgan explained.
“We take a multifaceted approach to protecting revenue. There are many things that we are involved in and I will go through a few. There is education, where we go to the revenue agencies and we make presentations on ethics, the work of the RPD and how as front-line employees, they can be protectors of the revenue themselves,” he added.
The RPD, Morgan said, has recently conducted most of its presentations to Tax Administration Jamaica and the Ministry of National Security. He adds that carrying out background checks are also part of its function.
“We do background checks for prospective or current employees of the revenue services and other entities, for example, Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission, the Students’ Loan Bureau, the Accountant General’s Department and the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service,” he noted.
Morgan stated that team members are steadfast in their efforts to carry out their mandate and shares one of its major investigations that resulted in fraud being discovered by the RPD at a government entity.
“The one I recall is a fraud that took place where an employee resurrected the accounts of dead pensioners. Well, some of the pensioners weren’t dead, but their accounts were inactive, and he resurrected them and had their pension funds sent to accounts that he had control over,” Morgans stated.
“When we discovered this fraud, it was in excess of $20 million and the reason why that one resonates with me is because of the victims, how vulnerable the ones that are still alive were, and that someone would actually do this,” he added.
He continued that the RPD also plays an active role to detect the entry of counterfeit goods into the country.
“The RPD officers are empowered under the Customs Act – they have the powers of constables, so they would have the powers of arrest and they are in fact customs officers for the purposes of the detection,” Morgan noted.
The commissioner points out that their inspections are carried out jointly with the Jamaica Customs Agency.
“We carry out the inspections at the port to examine cargo. Where we detect that cargo may be in breach of the Trade Act, where there are counterfeit goods or any other breach of customs, those goods are detained or seized,” he said.
Operations are also done in collaboration with the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch (C-TOC) and Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to weed out counterfeit goods that are sold in stores.
“If there are counterfeit goods… where we realise that there are persons who are involved in the regular importation of these items, we will partner with our other partners, C-TOC or MOCA, to do post-clearance checks,” Morgan said.
He indicates that although the RPD and their partners do their regular checks at the ports, sometimes counterfeit goods still seep into the country.
“There are limited resources, so not all shipments are inspected; however, when they do get to the store and they are detected and found in the marketplace, we take action, not just us, but our partners as well. There is C-TOC that has a unit that helps with enforcement,” Morgan said.
The decision on how to treat with the goods when they are discovered is not the purview of the RPD.
“Ultimately, the decision as to how they are disposed of is for the courts when they are found by the courts to be in breach of the Trade Act; they are generally destroyed,” the commissioner pointed out.
He hoped that by sharing more information about the RPD, persons will be reminded that the entity is still driven in meeting its mandate and has not taken a background approach in the execution of their duties.
“We are still here. We are very passionate about what we do. I know that I’ve heard persons saying we were subsumed into another entity and so on, and I want to dispel that. We have three locations – Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay and we can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here, we’re open, and we’re passionate about what we do,” Morgan said.