The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has said it did not sight a fire audit report from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) recommending the enhancement of the authority’s fire systems to meet standards at its Head Office Annex before the building was gutted.
“As an institution, we have not disregarded any fire advice. We do all that we can to ensure our offices and staff are protected by constantly inviting personnel of the fire authority to inspect and provide safety training engagements for us. We have not seen the detail report but we are not denying the fact that personnel from the fire service come to our offices, sometimes at our invitation to ensure that the right thing is done,” the Commissioner-General of the GRA, Mr Ammishadai Owusu- Amoah, told journalists in Accra at a briefing.
Briefing journalists on the aftermath of the recent fire outbreak at the two-storey Head Office Annex, known as the “VAT House” near the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange in Accra, Mr Owusu-Amoah indicated that his outfit was, however, cooperating with the GNFS to trace the said fire audit report “and if we find out that someone ignored the report, then we will take the necessary actions”.
After the fire outbreak on December 1, the Head of Public Relations of the GNFS, DOII Mr Ellis Robinson Okoe, told the Daily Graphic on Monday, December 2, that the service had conducted a fire audit report in 2018 on the GRA’s Head Office Annex and recommended that the authority enhance its fire safety systems to meet standards but the recommendations were ignored.
While the GNFS claimed the authority did not have smoke detectors and fire alarm systems in place in the building, the Commissioner-General of the GRA insisted “we have smoke detectors in our buildings”.
The GRA Commissioner-General said the authority would not rule out any form of foul play, “but as investigations are ongoing by the Fire Service and other agencies, we expect that when they finish, the report will be made available to us”.
Mr Owusu- Amoah said the fire ravaged the top floor of the two-storey building, “destroyed everything completely. Everything was burnt, the equipment, furniture, computers and other things, but the ground floor was not affected although the efforts in putting off the fire-affected it in terms of the debris, water”.
He said although the fire caused extensive structural damage to the ICT Centre, data from the two categories of taxpayer’s office were intact.
“We did not lose anything because of how we operate, our systems are networked and backed up we can get our data anytime,” he said.
Also, he said the authority did not lose money since most of the large and medium taxpayers did not pay cash directly to the office but fulfilled their tax obligations through cheques and bank transfers.
The authority, he said, had also put in measures to help staff who suffered the loss of personal items they kept in drawers in the office to enable them to undergo counselling and psychological support so that they could return to work in a good state of mind.
To ensure the continued collection of taxes, the GRA Commissioner General the staff of the two tax offices had been redeployed to other GRA offices close by.
He urged large taxpayers to visit the Kinbu sub LTO, Kaneshie and the Osu, Legon, Tema Community Two and Kaneshie Medium Tax Offices.
Medium taxpayers, on the other hand, are to transact business at the Adabraka Small Taxpayers office near the Adabraka Police Station.
In the meantime, he said, the authority was working on renting separate offices for the two categories of taxpayers.
“Looking at the current building, we are not sure how quickly we can renovate it and put it back into operation and, therefore, arrangements are advanced to rent new offices where the LOT and MTO will operate temporarily,” he said.
To attain the authority’s Gh¢42.5 billion revenue target for 2019, Mr Owusu- Amoah said the GRA would continue its nationwide efforts to collect the much needed revenue for national development.
“We will continue to enforce excise stamps, VAT invoices and continue our efforts at the ports to make sure every revenue is captured and ensure people submit their returns and comply with tax laws and also deal with defaulting taxpayers,” he said.