The finance ministry's Revenue Appeals Division (RAD) is quietly becoming a star in the public sector transformation galaxy, as well it should, given the need to make tax-paying less painful, even if people see it as a necessary evil.
We therefore don't fault Ms Maria Thompson Walters, the executive director of the Government's Transformation Implementation Unit, for exercising bragging rights on behalf of RAD at its recent Fifth Annual Awards and Recognition Ceremony.
Using the division's performance to encourage the public sector to make excellence "business as usual", Ms Thompson Walters stressed something we all need to keep top of mind: "Excellence is not an elusive concept. It is a mindset that can be cultivated, nurtured, and embraced… What you [RAD] have achieved in six years is nothing short of amazing!"
She was making reference to the fact that RAD has been surpassing its important targets, notwithstanding the daunting tasks and the difficult hurdles it faced at the beginning when Jamaica was clearly behind international benchmarks — with appeals taking an average of 45 months to conclude, hearings backlogged for nearly three years, and an ageing caseload inventory stubbornly refusing to budge.
The RAD is an independent entity with a mandate to hear and conclude appeals by taxpayers who are in disagreement with a decision of a revenue commissioner in relation to their tax liability or Customs valuation.
The finance ministry boasts that RAD embraces "the tenets of efficiency and transparency in concluding appeals in a fair, judicious, independent, and cost-effective manner". The figures seem to bear this out.
Over the past six years, the division has transformed and achieved operational benchmarks, such as concluding 60 per cent of appeals in 180 days, averaging 80 per cent in customer satisfaction, and achieving a stunning appeals settlement ratio of 100 per cent, if Ms Thompson Walters is to be believed.
We note, of course, that while Ms Thompson Walters reported that the entity had concluded 60 per cent of appeals in 180 days, RAD's website claimed an even more impressive "90 per cent of appeals concluded in 180 days".
We expect the anomaly to be corrected forthwith and the public duly informed of it, but we hasten to acknowledge that even at the lower figure of 60 per cent, that is a good look, and, as Ms Thompson Walters noted, bodes well for public sector transformation.
But there is more, because we are told by the website that RAD's work has achieved greater taxpayer compliance and "cordiality and agreement", resulting in appeal tax in abeyance pending further enquiries being reduced to $1 billion.
No one will disagree with Ms Thompson Walters emphasising that the public sector must foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation.
"We must be willing to step outside of what we have proven that we can do — you know, that place they call 'the comfort zone'. When we step outside of what we have already proven is when we truly discover what we are capable of," she said.
The employees of the RAD who were recognised for their contribution to the entity's performance are deserving of commendation.