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What sabotage? Tax commissioner says action against Gov't is a move to protect integrity

Published:Thursday | August 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Viralee Latibeaudiere

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Viralee Latibeaudiere has indicated in court documents that she believes the decision to terminate her contract as commissioner general of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) is linked to a perception that she might be "guilty of sabotage".

Latibeaudiere last week succeeded in having the court grant a 14-day injunction, barring the Government from terminating her three-year contract.

"… I would take certain steps to protect my integrity and the integrity of the office, as it arose during my discussions with the financial secretary that grave charges were being levelled against me in various letters and oral reports to the effect that I was guilty of sabotage," Latibeaudiere's affidavit said.

The Ministry of Finance has not responded to email queries from The Gleaner surrounding the decision to dismiss Latibeaudiere, who received a letter from the solicitor general on July 18, advising that her contract would be terminated on July 31.

Latibeaudiere has sought leave in the Supreme Court to apply for judicial review. She is seeking to have the court declare that the finance minister is not empowered by law to terminate or otherwise interfere with her contract.

She also wants the court to rule that the financial secretary is not empowered to terminate her contract, neither on his own volition nor under the dictates of the finance minister.

Latibeaudiere also wants the court to rule that a declaration of the financial secretary cannot authorise her transfer to any other position in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, unless the position is an equivalent or superior position, and for good and sufficient reason.

At the same time, she has asked for an interim and interlocutory injunction against the Public Service Commission, restraining it from making any recommendations to the governor general concerning the filling of the post of TAJ commissioner general, until the issues are determined by the court.

In the Government's letter of intent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it committed to prioritising the "appointment, by end-April 2013, of a regular commissioner general of the Tax Administration Jamaica, after the appointment of an acting chief executive officer in September 2012".

In her affidavit, Latibeaudiere said the commitment made to the IMF was "indeed surprising to me as no vacancy exists in relation to the post of commissioner general, as the post will not be vacant until next year".

Latibeaudiere was appointed commissioner general in May 2011, and claims in her affidavit that she was advised on January 28, 2012, by then Financial Secretary Dr Wesley Hughes that, he, acting on the instructions of the minister of finance and planning, would be terminating her appointment as commissioner general.

She said that on February 27, 2012, she received a letter from the financial secretary to the effect that she was being reassigned as commissioner general to another division in the ministry.

"I gave up my security of tenure as [a] public servant and was given a three-year contract in the tax-administration department of the Government of Jamaica … . Indeed, it was my hope and expectation that if allowed to serve the full term of my contract, I would be given the option to renew my contract for a further period of three years, as that option is provided for in the contract," she said.