Perpetual acting appointments dangerous
- former Auditor General says at book launch
A call was made for improving public accountability under Transparency Institute’s umbrella when former Auditor General, Dr. Anand Goolsarran, yesterday launched his book – “Improving Public Accountability – Guyana Experience 1985-2007”.
Dr. Goolsarran, who served 15 years as the Auditor General from 1990, and has been known to be outspoken, yesterday also said that the practice of not confirming, on a timely basis, senior functionaries in constitutional offices is a serious cause for worry.
He cited as examples Chief Justice (ag), Ian Chang and Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Carl Singh. Chang has been serving in that position since 2007 and Singh shortly after.
During his book launch at Marian Academy, Carifesta Avenue last evening, Goolsarran stressed that “not confirming officials to positions in a timely manner can lead to perception of dependency on executive government…a dangerous practice”.
Arguing that the Guyana government’s accounting systems are too centralized and bureaucratic, he was optimistic that change is now “threatening”.
“People don’t like change,” he said. “The country needs fresh injection of ideas and persons in the public services.”
He was not immune to the idea of term limits for the Auditor General, an independent constitutional post that over recent years has been under the spotlight because of its very seeming lack of independency. The current Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, has been acting in that position for more than seven years now.
Dr. Goolsarran believes that few persons are willing to speak out about corruption which happens to be pervasive, “…they fear victimization and it may very well be a case of self interest being placed above public interest”.
Regarding the power of the Audit Office, he said it is far-reaching, with the Auditor General even being empowered to break down doors if there are suspicions.
He also emphasised that the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament which examines the reports of the Audit Office has critical and tremendous responsibilities.
Goolsarran opened the book by noting that Guyana has a sad history of public accountability. According to Gino Persaud, a lawyer and President of the Transparency Institute of Guyana, the book is pertinent, especially in light of the fact that the annual Corruption Perception Index ranked Guyana at 134 out of 182 countries, last year.
Among other things, Dr. Goolsarran’s book also touched on the Integrity Commission, the creation of the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Public Procurement Commission and the Audit Office as well as the Audit Act.
“In Guyana, fragile democratic institutions and institutional weaknesses provide fertile grounds for corruption. Dr. Goolsarran’s book examines these institutional weaknesses,” Persaud noted.
The official recommended the book as a “must-read”.
Goolsarran worked with the UN also, between 2005 and January 2012.
He explained that the book chronicles his personal efforts during his stint as Auditor General, to not only “restore public accountability in Guyana, but also to bring about improvements in accordance with international best practice.”