Rampant corruption is now exposed
It is not by accident that Kaieteur News opted to put the spotlight on corruption. Indeed, there has always been corruption but these days, the plague has reached unprecedented proportions. I still remember the days when the party that now forms the government kept accusing the previous administration of corruption.
In fact, I was at the centre of some of those discussions. I always asked the accusers to show me where the stolen money was and they would tell me that the money is hidden in foreign banks. I then asked about the wisdom of having money just for the sake of having it. The people who were accused of raiding the public treasury lived in houses that can by no stretch of the imagination be described as opulent.
Twenty years later, I am still to see this stolen money come out. But in that time I have seen the sudden increase in wealth of the people who now form the government. It could not be that they had what was known as old money. They have nothing short of palaces and their bank accounts have already split the seams.
I have also looked at the functioning of some areas. NICIL is just one. Another is the use of the Lotto funds. Then there are the awards of contracts. At one time, Kaieteur News focused on the contractors, and it was this that led to the spotlight being placed on the people in the administration. The contractors simply said that they had to pay some engineer or Minister in order to be awarded a contract.
Because the contractor would not go on the record, the newspaper could not treat such reports as facts. In a court of law there would have been no defence. The Brazilians spoke of paying people inside the Home Affairs Ministry, huge sums of money to secure work permits. But this was chicken feed when compared to the money that the so-called big ones collected.
In more recent times, we have now seen the preponderance of Chinese contractors. For a long time I have been hearing and reading that the Chinese were no different from other Asiatics when it came to pursuing a certain goal. They would do this aggressively and they know that there is nothing like money to sweeten the pot.
We now have a lot of Chinese undertaking every major project in Guyana. The multi-million-dollar cable being strung by Guyana Power and Light is being done by the Chinese. One thought that the offer was by competitive bidding, but now it is in the open that one large Chinese company with many subsidiaries has been dominating the Caribbean scene and that that company has been banned by an international financial institution.
The One Laptop Per Family project has also gone to the Chinese. That project is more than a laptop distribution programme. It involves communication cables, which has sparked the belief that some of the major beneficiaries are people who were close to the former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
These contracts most surely involved kickbacks, and while I do not know the beneficiaries, I can hazard a very good guess. I sat and watched as the government, through the public treasury, put aside US$9 million for 27,000 laptops. I heard of the Chinese making cash donations ostensibly to the country to further support the programme. Then just the other day, I noticed that the very Chinese made a donation of 30,000 of the laptops to the government. That would be worth more than the US$10 million that Guyana would have spent.
I saw the cost of these netbooks and I knew that they were too highly priced and concluded that somebody was getting money from the Chinese.
Then there was the Marriott. Another Chinese company has been contracted. I began to wonder whether the only contractors we could secure were Chinese. Then I learnt that the Chinese were making soft loans available to Guyana and that once we accept the loan we have to use a Chinese contractor. This is interesting.
The airport project attracted yet another Chinese company. Were there more kickbacks? I need not worry about the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric project. The Americans are rough on any of its companies that would be involved in any corrupt dealing.
And so we come to the heart of the matter. This ban on the major Chinese company and by extension, any of its subsidiaries, was some time ago. If the local officials said that they did not know, then they were not doing due diligence; they were not investigating the ability of the company to undertake the scope of work.
I do not want to believe that we are a slack and complacent nation. I don’t want to believe that apathy has crept into our psyche. But surely that must be the case. The question about due diligence was asked of Winston Brassington when the government awarded a contract to Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall. Brassington told me that the company offering the performance bond should have done that.
That company was not spending money on the contract. If I am to build my house and the contractor is seeking a loan I cannot expect the bank to investigate the contractor to ascertain whether he would build a good house for me. The bank would only be interested in the contractor’s ability to repay the loan.
I knew there and then that there was a kickback. Corruption is rampant. Just this past week, I learnt of another massive bit of thieving at the National Communications Network. And I must not forget the contracts awarded to the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation. That story would be presented and the public would be able to judge.
As an aside, the British High Commissioner called to inform me that he never said that Guyana should get out of sugar. That was a statement I made last week. I must say that the statement was made to me some four years by an earlier British High Commissioner, Fraser Wheeler.
Indeed the story was written in 2012, but this High Commissioner Mr. Andrew Ayre never made those comments.