When systems leak money a few do get rich
There I was sitting at my desk trying to put the newspaper to bed when I heard that the parliamentary opposition had once more declined to pass the supplementary vote sought by the government. When the opposition voted down that supplementary the first time, I learnt that they cited a lack of information.
Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman later ruled that the government could reintroduce the supplementary, and from all indications, the parliamentary opposition parties seemed inclined to pass the vote. This was not to be. Apparently there was still a lot wrong.
The only reason the negative vote grabbed the headline was because it was most unusual. Generally the government would get its way. But there was never an opposition parliament in Guyana’s history.
I am still to come to grips with the reasons for the rejection. One thing seems to make sense and that is the refusal to vote money for the Low Carbon Development Strategy. This was supposed to be funded by money from Norway, money that President Bharrat Jagdeo secured.
Two years have passed and not one cent has been released. The reason is that Guyana has to do certain things. For one, it had to detail the programmes for which the money would be used and these programmes all had to do with what is now called green energy.
Some time back I said that if there is money coming for the programme and two years has elapsed without this money then it means that Guyana is not doing what it should, that there were people who were paid to do certain jobs but were obviously not doing what they were being paid to do. I cannot imagine that it would take two years for Guyana to prepare a programme.
This money should not come from the national treasury. Money has already been borrowed and continued borrowing to fund the low carbon programme would only encourage the people to remain lazy.
However, failure to pass that supplementary vote has implications. There were budgetary cuts. Dr Roger Luncheon has said that these cuts have cost jobs. With direct reference to the people employed by the Ethnic Relations Commission. I had once argued that there was money to pay these people. The people at National Communications Network (NCN) certainly had a lot of money on the side.
What the opposition parties have been saying is that there is a lot of theft, that money intended to help the workers was being siphoned off into private accounts. Needless to say, the government denied any such thing until this episode has popped up at NCN. There it was that money that should have gone into the NCN coffers ended up into the private account of senior staffer Martin Goolsarran.
I did not want to believe such was the case until I saw a statement written by Goolsarran admitting that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company actually made the cheques payable to him rather than to the company. Something needs investigating at GT&T.
And according to the statement by Goolsarran, the Chief Executive Officer Mohamed ‘Fuzzy’ Sattaur, was aware of this development.
I noted these efforts and concluded that corruption was endemic. It was there at every turn. Just this past week, I learnt that even at City Hall, that more often than not cannot pay its staff, has people stealing millions of dollars.
People who cannot solve the garbage crisis in the city were clever enough to set up dummy companies, to create situations so that they could siphon money to friends although the council had the capability to undertake the tasks.
The police have not yet intervened in any of the cases, so the rest of the society would conclude that stealing is not so bad a thing because you lose the job but you get to keep the money.
When these things happen, the mindset of the political opposition is reinforced. It is this reinforcement that must have influenced the budget cuts.
Then I heard about the sale of the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation. The manner in which this company went to Dr Ranjisinghi Ramroop made me realize that some things may appear to be normal when they are not.
I understood that the late Michael Shree Chand, just before he succumbed to cancer, went to the late President Cheddi Jagan and asked him to sell the company to Dr Ramroop. The story goes that Dr Jagan was not so inclined and invited public bids.
The rest of the story will be told, but word is that the former President Bharrat Jagdeo had something to do with the company going to Dr Ramroop. It would seem that President Jagdeo has been at the centre of the disposal of state assets even before he became the head of state.