Editorial: TAJ blunder
Recent events suggest that Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) is no model of efficiency and that a blunder in that office is the cause of a shortage of licence plates at the island's collectorates.
For more than a fortnight, this shortage of plates has had a crippling effect on businesses, as neither dealer nor customer has been able to conclude motor vehicle transactions in the current environment. Other aspects of business operations have also been affected.
TAJ says the current shortage is caused by a delay in the delivery of supplies and also makes reference to an unusually high increase in demand for licence plates. Respectfully, we submit that this explanation is woefully inadequate, for it does not tell the country the full story of what created the problem. Did someone not project that with an "unusually high increase in demand", more plates would have to be ordered?
The TAJ is still not able to say exactly when the situation will be rectified. This raises some serious questions about the procurement practices of the TAJ and the relationship it has with its suppliers. Could it be that TAJ owes it suppliers and is unable to pay them? Who are the suppliers and why are they unable to deliver the goods?
The situation has become unbearable for members of the Automobile Dealers Association (ADA), which is a grouping of new-car dealers. They have taken the bold step of suspending further payments of import duties on motor vehicles to Jamaica Customs. All car dealers are in the exact position of not being able to sell their vehicles until customers can be provided with licence plates.
One of the Government's key imperatives has been to collect as much revenue as it can, even in the face of persistent tax dodgers. The prospects of raising taxes any higher are dim, so the next best effort must be to collect what is already due. It is unfathomable that the TAJ is the agency that is now frustrating this effort.
Therefore, someone should be held accountable for this loss of revenue to the country. Blunders such as these carry a financial charge, and until such situations are treated with the seriousness they deserve, there will be more of the same.
Jamaica is haunted by misplaced hope, for every year, hope rises that somehow there will be a break from inept and ineffective performance in the public sector. But instead of improvement, we seem always to be lurching from one crisis to another. There are clearly leadership issues to consider in this situation. When there is strong political will and creative public-sector leadership working in tandem, much can be accomplished.
We talk glibly about global competitiveness but we do not begin to understand that to compete in the 21st century, all systems must work together to deliver service efficiently. The emphasis today is on efficient service delivery.
And even though public-sector reform has been ongoing for more than a decade, the service delivery of public-service agencies and departments rarely rises to an acceptable level. One thing is certain: The public's tolerance of inefficiency has steadily decreased. Someone in Government needs to push the efficiency agenda forward.