The Customs Man Cometh

Mr Vuto is definitely not regarded as a tax man even though a recent statement about his appointment said he was involved in tax.
16 Jan 2021 17:30
The Customs Man Cometh
Interim chief executive officer, Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, Jonetani Vuto.

The Taxman Cometh is a common phrase.

And a popular American novel.

In Suva this week, The Taxman has been the subject of talk amongst the c-suite executives and the accounting fraternity.

For a Customs Man has Cometh at Fiji Revenue and Customs Service.

Who is Jonetani Vuto? some are asking.

Mr Vuto was a surprise announcement for some as the interim chief executive officer of Fiji Revenue and Customs Service.

So who is Mr Vuto?

Mr Vuto is definitely not regarded as a tax man even though a recent statement about his appointment said he was involved in tax.

He comes from another critical arm of Fiji Revenue and Customs. He is a seasoned, experienced Customs man with expert oversight of the country’s borders.

According to the Fiji Revenue and Customs website Mr Vuto was Deputy Director Revenue – Customs in 2018.

He was Acting National Manager Risk & Compliance – Customs in 2014-2015.

He has actually been responsible for all facets of Border Operations, which primarily covers all Sea and Air people, goods and craft crossing our borders.

He is not a tax man, so to speak


Different field

Tax is a different field of revenue speciality altogether.

Some of his predecessors were tax men, such as the highly qualified Visvanath Dass, the last substantive chief executive officer in the big building at Nasese.

Mr Das rose to the chief executive officer role from General Manager – Tax.

Mr Vuto is described by those who know him as a smart and humble guy who thrives in Customs work.


Tough decision

He is also, apparently, not afraid to take tough decisions.

He was the director border and under him more than 80 primary line officers were made redundant by December 31, last year.

Some say it could have been avoided by innovative measures such as split shifts.

But cutting numbers was a call that he made in consultation with the senior management and board.

It fitted with the new normal of zero tourism and reduced trade.

Looking at the bigger picture, Government’s immediate priorities include maintaining revenue collection to support services and governance.

Mr Vuto’s role as interim chief exexecutive officer will be challenging.

With plenty of pressure from Government and internally, where there has been some turmoil.

Which brings to mind another American drama, The Iceman Cometh. That story had a tough ending.  Let’s wish Mr Vuto all the best in his critically important interim role for the economy.

May it have a good ending.





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