Fighting corruption…Whistleblower protection laws should be introduced
Government should seriously consider introducing whistleblower laws that will protect individuals who report cases of mismanagement, fraud and corruption, said former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran.
Anand Goolsarran, on Tuesday evening launched his book, chronicling his efforts while in office, to restore public accountability in Guyana and bring about improvements according to international best practices.
Speaking to diplomats, academics and other invitees at Marian’s Academy, Goolsarran who has been outspoken about the state of finances and accountability in Guyana, said the government’s record in relation to its fight against corruption has not been an impressive one.
Given Guyana’s low ranking in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), he warned that it is the government’s duty to put in place appropriate measures to correct this within the shortest possible period of time.
“In this regard, the Integrity Commission should be reorganized, and staffed with members with professional and technical competence. Adequate funding should also be provided to ensure that the Commission discharges its responsibilities fully in accordance with the law.”
Similarly, he said, an Ombudsman should be appointed without further delay.
“In addition, the Freedom of Information Act, which was drafted several years ago, should be passed into legislation. This will send a powerful signal that there is a strong commitment to openness and transparency in government operations.”
Goolsarran, who became the Auditor in 1990 and served for 15 years, was convinced that the government has no options but to fully implement all the provisions of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.
In recent years, the issue of corruption and accountability has been a hot topic and it is widely believed that the failure to adequately address it was the main reason for the poor showing by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in the November 28, 2011 General and Regional Elections. The ruling party lost its Parliamentary majority for the first time in 20 years since assuming power in 1992.
Procurement Commission now
As regards the Procurement Commission, Goolsarran stressed that it is in the national interest for the political parties in the National Assembly to set aside their personal interests and genuinely seek to make the necessary accommodations to enable impartial and competent members of the Commission to be appointed.
“In this way, there is no longer likely to be the perception of bias in the award of Government contracts.”
However, he admitted, despite these safeguards, in the most rigorous analysis of the issue, the prevention and detection of corruption need to be addressed more fundamentally through a system of institutionalized education and training to sensitize citizens to the public interest and to the value of inculcating moral and ethical behaviour.
“While recognizing the diverse religious and cultural backgrounds of Guyana’s citizens, the arguments are strong for the Ministry of Education to introduce into the school curriculum a system of moral and ethical education at least at the primary level, with possible extension to secondary and tertiary levels.”
He also recommended that there be in place an arrangement whereby Government employees are required to undergo mandatory ethics training as a basis for continued employment, as in the case of the United Nations which also has a dedicated Ethics Office.
“Once ethics training becomes institutionalized in Government and over time its merits are appreciated, it can form the basis for possible emulation by the private sector.
“After all, corruption in Government is often facilitated by the actions of some private sector players.”
Goolsarran insisted that research has led to the conclusion that the root cause of corruption is poverty.
“It would be fair to state that employees, who are less schooled in moral and ethical behaviour and who place little value on the virtues of public good and the public interest, are likely to indulge in corrupt behaviour.”
The former Auditor General believes that it would be necessary for the Government to carry out a comprehensive review of the compensation packages payable to all levels of its employees with a view to ensuring that they are adequately remunerated.
“It would indeed be penny wise and pound foolish not to pay competitive salaries when the costs to the State that are associated with this approach are likely to be significantly less compared with the benefits that would accrue from a reduction in corruption.”