January 10, 2017
Cover letter from CHPA Attorney Hannifah Jordan to Board introducing land fraud by one of Guyana’s wealthiest families.
Kaieteur News Editorial
Corruption in Guyana is entrenched and widespread and it is choking the country’s development. Serious consideration must be given to what lies ahead, should the government fail to decisively and aggressively confront corruption. For the past 15 years, Guyana has suffered from a perception that it is a highly corrupt country, and this is evident in the March 2017 report of the United States Department of State, which pointed to the magnitude and depth of corruption in the country.
In 2016, Transparency International (TI) Correction Perceptions Index (CPI) has ranked Guyana among the most corrupt countries in the world, with a score of 34 where zero means highly corrupt, and a score of 100 indicates that the state is not corrupt. It means that Guyana has moved up by 11 places from 119 and a score of 29 in 2015 to 108 and a score of 34 in 2016. When a country’s CPI falls below 40, it has reached a tipping point, where most government institutions are corrupt and in a state of relative dysfunction.
While this is not the case in Guyana, many Guyanese do not have a favorable view of the leadership or of some of the country’ most critical institutions, such as health and education. In 2015, the Global Corruption Barometer which assesses corruption in national institutions globally, found that most Guyanese felt the country’s police and parliamentarians are extremely corrupt.
The promises made by the last administration to strengthen the country’s anti-corruption frame-work were a sham because nothing of substance exists to effectively address the pervasive and endemic corruption that has afflicted the country. Since independence, only a few public officials have been jailed for corruption in Guyana by the Burnham government. No one has been jailed by the PPP administration, despite the massive increase in corruption. This is a striking phenomenon, which can only be interpreted as supporting the view that corruption and impunity in Guyana are deeply entrenched and widespread. Few expect that the much-heralded anti-corruption bill will advance the fight against corruption.
This administration is not blameless, either. Prior to entering office, it had committed in its election manifesto to bring an end to the incidence of rampant corruption in the country. Very importantly, it acknowledged that sustainable economic growth is not possible without combating corruption, whose costs are far-reaching. Corruption is a major concern for developing economies like Guyana, and the adverse socio-economic consequences it portends are substantial. Corruption impedes economic growth, undermines the rule of law, and tears down the fabric of society. It erodes the quality of life of citizens by diverting public funds away from critical social services, such as health care, education, water, roads and electricity.
It also leads to human rights violations, reduces investor confidence, stunts business activity, wipes out jobs, fuels migration, increases the price of goods and services, undermines and destroys confidence in public institutions, and enables organized crime and other threats to human security to flourish. And, yes, corruption also steals public funds. The current administration had said that Guyana will be developed only if corruption is tackled in an uncompromising manner. However, as is now well known, this is being done at a snail’s pace in spite of the fact that several forensic audit reports have found many public officials from the last administration culpable of corrupt practices.
It is of great concern to the general public that after two years in office, this administration has not yet honored its election anti-corruption commitments. Although many, including supporters of the coalition believe that the government knows precisely what must be done to arrest the tentacles of corruption, yet it appears that there is a lack of courage and political will to effectively implement some the corrective measures proffered in the forensic audit reports.
Breaking election promises goes to the root of credibility and trust and when our leaders act in this way, it erodes their credibility, trust and confidence that a believing electorate has reposed in them.
If taxpayers’ moneys are involved in a national project, then it is only reasonable for them to be able to know the inner workings of the contracts governing the use of those moneys.
This perspective was recently put forward by Head of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI), Dr. Troy Thomas, in an interview with Kaieteur News.
The anticorruption advocate opined that it does not make sense that government officials are able to know about these contracts and the taxpayers are left in the dark.
He believes that this state of affairs needs to be changed.
Some of the contracts which are yet to be released despite several requests by the media in the past two years include those with BaiShanLin Forest Development Inc, Vaitarna Holdings Private Inc. and the contract governing the Sanata Complex deal and the Marriott Hotel.
“Our position on contracts is that we shouldn’t have secret contracts. You can make exceptions for security issues because those are sensitive but why should the Marriott Contract be secret? Anything where taxpayers’ moneys are being used should not be subject to secrecy. Why are people in government so privileged to know about it and we, who are putting the money there and put them in the seat of government can’t know what it is?
“That does not make any sense. So that is an important issue for transparency. The more people are aware of these things, the more scrutiny a government can come under, and the less likely you are going to have certain things happening, corrupt acts happening.”
“I am not saying it is going to wipe it out but it is certainly going to make it much more difficult. So the refusal to release those things could be questioned,” the University of Guyana lecturer added.
Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan says that he would intervene if he establishes that nurse Sherlyn Marks, who complained about now resigned Region 5 Councillor Carol Joseph, was transferred because she had blown the whistle.Marks was abruptly transferred by Regional Executive Officer (REO) for Region Five, Ovid Morrison, a day after Stabroek News reported that she had lodged a complaint about Joseph allegedly abusing her position to access pain-killing medication from the Fort Wellington Hospital.
Bulkan told Stabroek News on Friday that his government does not want to be ever seen as targeting whistle blowers and condoning acts of retaliation against those who were brave enough to speak on out issues of corruption; especially when it promotes whistle blowing as part of its transparency mechanism.
Further, he added: “We cannot discourage whistle blowers we have to promote persons out there who are prepared and who have the courage to expose corruption wherever it may be taking place. We cannot sweep things under the carpet. Should we do so, and we are reminded by our leader that were we to adopt that approach, by 2020 the carpet would be thick and we do not want that.
One day after her story was published, in which she lamented that her complaints against Joseph’s abuse of office had seemed to fall on deaf ears of authorities, Marks was transferred from the Fort Wellington Hospital, where she was stationed.
“I remind myself every day that we came to office on a pledge and promise of change. Not continuity and it means that we can’t practice two standards. If it was wrong yesterday then it has to be wrong today because we cannot be practising continuity when we promised change. That is my position and that is where I stand,” the Minister of Communities stressed.
He said that corrupt officials are the scum of the society and that no lenience would be extended to them. He said that strict action will be taken against corrupt officials and an investigation would continue in this regard even with the applicants backing out from the case. He further said that action will also be taken against those applicants who may back out from their earlier stance. He said that he will leave no stone unturned to send the corrupt officials behind bars and instructed the public servants to always file a case in the courts against any individual they may find involved in corruption.
“Do the leaders of the Buhari administration really believe in the vision set out in the document?”
Dr. Thomas said that when one compares the period under the PPP and now, it is clear that Guyana has emerged from the “poisonous shadow of corruption” and has moved on to “the brink of an anti-corruption era”.
The anti-corruption advocate said that Guyanese have seen some important steps being made by the Government in an effort to show that it intends to move the nation forward. He said that this can be seen in Government’s move to establish a State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) and ensuring that legislation has been passed to support it.