Corruption is moving to epidemic proportions in Guyana, charges political activist, Richard Van West Charles, and he sees no intention on the part of the government to change this.
“You can’t get the governance straight unless you deal with corruption and the government doesn’t seem to have any intention to tackle this,” declares Van West Charles, who is backing economist and lawyer, Winston Murray to lead a political force to unseat the ruling PPP in general elections next year.
He makes clear the definition of corruption that he finds glaring: the abuse of public funds or the office for private or political gain. He said corruption is evident on three fronts – state capture, administrative corruption, patronage and nepotism.
“All three of these elements of corruption are evident in the practice of government under the PPP/C,” Van West Charles states.
Among the examples of corruption that Van West Charles cites, is a tendency of the government to “shift things into monopolies.”
“A monopoly plus discretion, minus accountability minus transparency is equal to corruption,” he says in quoting another source. This is seen in the procurement of medical drugs.
He points out that there is no international competitive bidding, and the drugs procured by the government go solely to the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation, under the pretext of “ministerial discretion.”
“You are in fact driving a monopoly and using ministerial discretion without any accountability, without any transparency; it’s a whole lot of corruption that is going on,” Van West Charles declares.
Turning to the award of contracts, he says international financial institutions have pointed to the need for contract reform in this country. Van West Charles posits that in the transportation sector, for example, most contracts are awarded to a specific set of contractors, who carry out substandard work only to benefit from additional contracts.
He points to a need for citizens to be informed of work that is being undertaken in their area, so they can have a greater say.
“You see a lot of corruption when people are shifting resources in capital projects where the political boys get contracts, and then there is the poor work that is being done,” he laments.
Van West Charles reasons that public funds are being diverted to work for inefficiency when you have sectors requiring more resources.
“You can’t cry out all nurses and teachers are going away and you paying them paltry sums,” he says, adding that the Police Force is not properly armed, trained, or paid properly so as to bring it up to the level of a professional Police force.
Further, Van West Charles believes if the government was serious about tackling corruption, then it would seek to ensure the vulnerabilities of corruption are significantly reduced. This he notes could be achieved by having in place a framework for reducing corruption.
He makes reference to the fact that when someone needs a birth certificate or a passport, there is a natural knew-jerk reaction of “who I know and how much I have to pay.”
If the government wants to rid itself of corruption, systems can be put in place, recommends Van West Charles. For the issuance of birth certificates, there could be a system that says “it will take two weeks to be produced, but if you want it earlier, you will have to pay extra.”
In the absence of a definitive system to issue “early” birth certificates, then the corruption creeps in and that works against the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire process.
“We need to reduce the robbery of people’s money that should be directed into development projects.”
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