START WITH THE GUYANA POLICE FORCE
If the government is serious about corruption it should begin its anti-corruption campaign within the most corrupt institution in Guyana: the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
And a good place within the GPF is traffic. It is an open secret in Guyana that many new recruits to the Guyana Police Force favour placements within the traffic section because they know that when they are given duties on the road they can use their powers to extort bribes from motorists.
If the government is serious about wiping out corruption – especially in those areas where the greatest number of people is directly affected – it should begin by reducing the fines payable for traffic offences.
These high fines are an incentive for corruption. When someone is stopped on the road and they are threatened with a charge, they have to weigh their options. If they try to defend their actions, they may be fearful that they will not find a sympathetic ear from more superior ranks and may even end up instead of with a ticket with a charge hanging over their head.
If they decide to contest the charge, they will lose valuable time going to court. They may even have to take a lawyer which will cost them a fortune. Faced with such alternatives, many opt to simply pay a bribe to the police rank because it saves time and trouble.
This, of course, only encourages those corrupt officers and perpetuates the cycle of corruption.
For many ordinary drivers, they are often pressured into yielding to the solicitations of corrupt ranks. Consider an ordinary driver who works for $10,000 per week. This is the money that the driver has to use to take home to maintain his family. He needs every dollar of that $10,000 because it is not easy to survive on a small salary in Guyana. It is not easy at all!
Now imagine that this driver is stopped on the road and either justifiably or unjustifiably is threatened that he will receive a ticket.
Now suppose the fine on this ticket, if the driver does not contest, is $7,500. This means that this driver, if he has to pay this ticket, is left with a mere $2,500 to take home to his family at the end of the week. How is he going to make ends meet with this pitiful sum?
He cannot, and therefore he is quite prepared to pay to the corrupt police rank a raise of $3,000 just to not give him a ticket.
This is one of dangers of having high fines for traffic offences in a country in which the income of the population is very low.
If on the other hand the fine was a mere $2000, the driver would be more willing to go and pay this fine and this would discourage a great deal of the corruption that exists today on our roadways. Having to pay that fine would also act as a deterrent from committing a traffic offence in the future.
It therefore makes no sense trying to implement systems that would improve the payment of traffic tickets. Once the fines are high, these prohibitive amounts will become an inducement for corruption.
As such what is needed is a general reduction in traffic fines. This will bring in far more revenues than are presently being collected, since the rate of delinquency at the moment is very high, with only about 20% of the total tickets issued being paid.
Of course, there is also a need to increase salaries of the lower ranks of the Guyana Police Force. There is no reason why this cannot be done.
Once the government gets serious about wastage within the Guyana Police Force it would be surprised by the amount of monies that it can save, monies that can be ploughed back into paying better salaries.
They are many senior officers of the GPF who drive their personal vehicles to work, for which they are paid allowances, and when they are at work they use the official police vehicles when they should be using their own vehicles.
Further, there are many times when police ranks can be seen using the GPF’s vehicles to undertake their own personal business. All of this has a cost to the GPF and the savings from the reduction and eradication of this cost can be ploughed back into increasing wages of junior police ranks.
We seem to have an aversion to bringing in foreign help to run our police force. But if corruption and inefficiency are widespread then there is no other option but to recruit foreigners to help us out.
But if Guyanese have problems with having someone head the GPF who is not a national, then at least persons of integrity and ability should be tolerated to head other key positions within the GPF.
If the government is serious about corruption it should designate certain critical positions and hire expatriates to fill these positions, until such time as corruption is substantively reduced or totally eliminated.