The Minister’s position on this issue appears to constitute an abuse of his powers
It was with some amusement, I listened to remarks by the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Mr. Ganga Persaud, on a television newscast, on his reasoning for officers, at City Hall, fingered in recent fraud revelations to remain at their posts while the police investigate allegations of corruption and criminal acts implicating them.
His reasoning is that the Ministry cannot just assume that the officers involved would interfere with the process. Something is seriously wrong with that line of reasoning by a Minister of government, who, we assume, ought to know better.
The Council collects the taxes of property-owners. We depend on the actors there to be honest and prudent and give us value for money in the services they deliver to us. But with allegedly corrupt officers in charge of the Council’s money, we can expect the poor and sometimes no services we have been getting from the Council to continue.
If those officers are implicated in the misappropriation of funds and other resources then they should not be left in charge of those resources.
More than that, the Minister’s line of reasoning is inconsistent with the norms of such investigations and government’s actions in other entities with similar malpractices such as the Ministry of Finance, Guyana Police Force, and National Communication Network.
Against that background, the situation at City Hall seems more like a big political game, to achieve some hidden agenda by the PPP/C, than any real investigation to deal with the corruption there. Perhaps, it is an attempt to use those officers to continually embarrass the Council.
Perhaps, it is an approach to begin the mechanics to install an Interim Management Committee at City Hall. No one knows for sure but something is very wrong.
Notwithstanding, the Minister’s position on this issue appears to constitute an abuse of his powers. If the elective Council expressed discomfort with the three officers being in position during the investigation and requested that they be sent on leave to allow for transparency and accountability and thoroughness of the process then the Minister cannot ignore that concern without abusing his powers.
In fact, he has abused his powers by allowing the officers to remain on the job, at his instant, in the face of the very serious concern raised by the Mayor and City Council.
It remains to his shame that such an abnormality can be allowed at a time when there is a loud and agonizing public outcry against corruption which, like a cancer, is surfacing everywhere in our society.
The fact that the Minister sent the matter to the police did not allay the fear of the Council of the presence of the trio on the job during the investigation. In any case, sending a matter to the police should not interfere with the normal administrative practices in dealing with such incidents of alleged corruption.
Given the positions they hold- the Town Clerk, City Engineer and the City Treasurer- the very presence of the officers on the job would serve as an impediment to any proper investigation. They have access to certain documents that can provide evidence against them. Also, they can make it difficult for those carrying out the investigation to have access to relevant information.
Already, there is the suspicion by the Council’s System Analyst that the company’s information network is being tampered with (KN/ City Hall ‘Big Three’ spark more woes at p. 17 in the Thursday, July 12, 2012).
Also, those who may wish to come forward with information would be discouraged because they have to take instructions and even sanctions from the same bosses who are allegedly involved in corruption.
Finally, it sets a bad precedent for junior workers, who hear about all the wrongdoings but see the officers still holding their posts. They would be tempted to think that such behaviour is rewarded instead of punished.