Saasa tells-off ZRA Commissioner General

CALLING me hungry without any clue about my financial status, presumably because I am not in government employment, is laughable and speaks more to weird ego challenges of whoever describes me as such, says Premier Consult Limited managing director Professor Oliver Saasa.

Prof Saasa has told Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) commissioner general Kingsley Chanda that Value Added Tax (VAT) remains, “get used to it.”

Last week, Prof Saasa questioned Chanda’s insistent support for the discarded sales tax.

Chanda later issued a derisive statement where he branded Prof Saasa as “a hungry and angry man masquerading as an economist.”

Prof Saasa has issued a statement to counter Chanda’s “unpalatable and demeaning” response.

He said his field of specialisation, which is primarily political economy, could not be doubted by those competent enough to appreciate that area and its multi-disciplinary nature and how that allowed those in the field to possess a much broader perspective on anything developmental.

“My doctoral thesis from a British university has been deposited in the UNZA library for anyone to see. My CV is also out there on LinkedIn for the public to see. So, referring to me as masquerading a profession is distasteful, especially coming from someone with the position of Mr Chanda, who I am told is a customs specialist,” Prof Saasa said.

“Trying to publicly belittle me just because we are in disagreement on [a] fundamental issue of procedure would simply not work, as Mr Chanda can now see from the social media backlash that has been ignited by his attempt to demean me. If Mr Chanda wants to join the known clowns that believe that fields other than mainstream economics are the only ones competent to comment on tax issues or any other economic or developmental issues, he should come out clearly and we shall call him by his real name and lump him in that group.”

He noted that if Chanda’s current questioning of the position of finance minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu “(and, indeed, of the government)” on VAT retention was also based on his doubting the competence of the minister who is not a mainstream economist, “(as was the case for many earlier finance ministers before him), then let him again come out clearly and say so publicly and we will know exactly what he thinks of his boss.”

Prof Saasa reminded Chanda that the ZRA was a public institution, which was subject to scrutiny by members of the public.

“The public is at liberty to express opinions on its workings and the workings of its personnel, him included. An opinion targeted at the organisation, directly or through its chief executive, need not be perceived a challenge on the human being concerned and, thus, need not necessarily intimidate his ego,” he said.

“My challenging Mr Chanda’s approach regarding the manner he argued his case was not meant to be personal unless he mistakes himself for ZRA itself, which would amount to strange behaviour. Even the President can be called upon to account for his actions and defend his position.”

Prof Saasa indicated that it was surprising that Chanda reacted in the manner that he did, regarding his (Prof Saasa’s) statement in the press pertaining to his support for the decision of the government to retain VAT as opposed to sales tax, which Chanda championed.

He added that to resort to name-calling, when challenged, was ill-informed.

“Presently, I am aware that there are important sections of society that believe strongly that ZRA has not performed to its expectations and that, because of specific concerns, the organisation should be subjected to an audit with respect to what is happening there. I would like to add my voice to such calls. We expect a proper, sober and professional reaction to such calls,” said Prof Saasa.

“It is strange that Mr Chanda questions my earned academic credentials by calling me ‘so-called professor’ and describes me as a ‘hungry and angry man,’ the sort of name-calling that I don’t expect to come from someone occupying the public office that he does.”

Prof Saasa added that even though Chanda was clearly publicly disappointed and quite embarrassed by the position of Dr Ng’andu regarding VAT as well as the position that he (Prof Saasa) had publicly supported (even when government was still on the other side of the argument), name-calling should be beyond the stature of Chanda’s office.

Meanwhile, Prof Saasa said contrary to what Chanda seemed to imply, “I am more than qualified to comment on public policy, which includes aspects related to tax regimes.”

“My training and publications that span over three decades are there for anyone to see and many of my works are being used as textbooks in universities here in Zambia and abroad,” said Prof Saasa.

“Professors are, by definition, supposed to profess until they expire and my views cannot be silenced, definitely not by those that are less informed about my training and competences as applied here in Zambia and abroad. So, calling me hungry without any clue about my financial status, presumably because I am not in government employment, is laughable and speaks more to weird ego challenges of whoever describes me as such.”

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