Apr 29, 2010 Letters
First, let me say on Tuesday morning before leaving for work, only the Guyana Chronicle’s Internet version was available at the time, and so I read a letter from one Randy Kirton, captioned, “An open letter to Mr. Chim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP,” (GC, April 27). The over simplified style of writing read somewhat similar to what I have come to expect from Dr. Randy Persaud and so I left home thinking it was Dr. Persaud who used a fake last name.
On my return home from work, I opened the Kaieteur News, and there was the identical letter, signed by Dr. Randy Persaud. I was beside myself with laughter on discovering that Mr. Randy Kirton and Dr. Randy Persaud are the same. On rechecking with the Guyana Chronicle, subsequently, the correction was made, but too late. There are fake writers working for the government.
Because of his type of employment, Dr. Persaud’s defence of the government’s LCDS was noticeably, yet understandably, instant. He, however, cited me as a ‘full time critic of the LCDS and the PPP Government’ who is ‘woefully misinformed about even the most elementary aspects of the LCDS and the agreement struck between the Government of Guyana and Norway’, and that I live ‘in New York and, therefore, could not participate in the national (LCDS) consultation process’ held in Guyana.
Without responding to each of the above mentioned points, let me generalize my response by saying to Mr. Kirton, my letter to the UNEP Executive Director was centrally focused on the alarming pervasiveness of corruption in the Jagdeo Administration, which has been seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign donors/investors for its LCDS and, in the process, inadvertently resulted in President Bharrat Jagdeo being recognised and awarded by the UNEP as a Champion of the Earth. LCDS – clearly unprecedented and, therefore, a gamble – was secondary to the main thrust of my letter, so that Dr. Persaud’s unsolicited hysterics about the LCDS was a deliberate attempt to obfuscate while studiously avoiding any reference to the issue of corruption in government. Nice try, Mr. Kirton.
The very notion that the Jagdeo Administration is plagued with so many instances of uncorrected corrupt practices, and the very notion that Guyana itself has been placed high on the list of the Transparency International’s most corrupt countries for consecutive years, are enough to make any serious investor in Guyana carefully evaluate the situation on the ground before plunking down their money.
And so it does not really help the image of the government when its defenders, such as Dr. Persaud, come out in support of its Low Carbon Development Strategy by saying a ‘mechanism
will be in place to ensure transparent oversight in which a reputable international financial organisation will manage the LCDS payments’. Why is there a need for a reputable international financial organisation to manage LCDS payments, if not because of the absence of any serious commitment by the government to wage a comprehensive, law-based fight against corruption? From various foreign news reports I have read, rich donor/investor nations have expressed concerns about corruption in Third World and poor underdeveloped nations that are candidates for forest preservation money, and Guyana, with less than 800,000 people, is among those corrupt nations.
The issue here is not merely a case of the Guyana Government having a problem in one fiscal year with hundreds of millions of dollars either misappropriated or unaccounted for; this problem that has taken on crisis proportions is actually like an annoying recurring decimal point and it speaks to a bigger problem high up the chain of command in government that literally allows this type of behaviour to be tolerated year after year. Recently, the Lotto and Consolidated Funds issue surfaced again, as per the Auditor-General’s report! Doesn’t it bother the government to have this issue unresolved for years? How say ye, Mr. Kirton?
Editor, it can also be argued that, much like the reputable international financial organisation will ensure transparency in managing payment towards LCDS, the Auditor General’s office in Guyana serves to ensure transparency (and accountability) in how government is spending the people’s money. And while the Guyana Government is likely to adhere to the rules of the game plan set forth by that international organisation in order to keep LCDS funds pouring in, it should definitely adhere to the myriad and oft-repeated recommendations of its Auditor-General. If foreign donor nations know the Guyana Government does not respect the findings/recommendations of its own Auditor-General, those nations will always question government’s honesty in dealing with them.
By the way, it is worth reminding Dr. Persaud that one previous Auditor-General made numerous attempts to obtain documents from Office of the President pertaining to the Dolphin Scandal, and after being stoutly rebuffed, whatever cordial working relations existed between the two offices changed to the extent that that AG ended up resigning to take up a new job overseas. Then, as if to send a political message, the current AG appointed by the President has acted in this substantive post for several years, so that even though the AG’s office is supposed to operate independent of all other branches of government, its leader’s prolonged acting appointment reeks of political manipulation. (If he is no longer acting, but has been confirmed, I haven’t read about this).
And political manipulation, leading to political control/domination, could well be the key to understanding how and why corruption in government works. In fact, government corruption even extends outside government circles. May I remind Mr. Kirton that the Jagdeo Government knew CLICO (Guyana) was violating the specific section of the Insurance Act that bars local insurance companies from investing in excess of 15% of local funds overseas, and did not take punitive measures in accordance with another section of the Insurance Act to stop it? As a result, CLICO (Guy) lost US$34M of depositors’ money, and then the President of Guyana – not the Chief Executive Officer of CLICO (Guy) – became the principal spokesman on the ensuing CLICO (Guy) debacle.
He first promised depositors Clico (Guy) was safe and then after the money was lost, he committed his government to tap into the public funds for the US$34M to pay depositors with another promise to have the public funds repaid over 10 years. Subsequently, he relied on his government’s parliamentary majority to pass legislation placing CLICO (Guy) under Bank of Guyana supervision. Throughout the entire process, not only was there no public accounting by way of a public enquiry of this private insurance company’s shenanigans, but it is taxpayers – among them some depositors – who must foot this bill. The CEO of CLICO (Guy) who should have been held liable for CLICO (Guy)’s catastrophic meltdown was never arrested and charged in accordance with provisions in the Insurance Act.
Incidentally, the same CEO of CLICO (Guy) sits on the GuySuCo board, and in 2008, this corporation lost Guy$3B due to a number of factors, including poor management. I guess ‘bad judgment’ simply follows the CLICO (Guy) CEO wherever she goes. Anyway, in January this year, government used its parliamentary majority (again) to approve Guy$4B to purchase lands from the corporation’s Diamond Estate for the purpose of developing a housing scheme. Notice the similarity with CLICO (Guy), where taxpayers lost money in 2008 (GuySuCo is government-owned) and have to now pay for this new land acquisition, but in this instance, the action actually doubles as a political insurance for the ruling party and government that ensures sugar workers are taken care of financially. Yes, sugar workers have to be paid this year and next year or else they won’t vote PPP in 2011.
For Dr. Persaud/Mr. Kirton’s enlightenment, the violation by CLICO (Guy), which reeked of both corruption and a subsequent cover-up, happened because we are dealing with a non-transparent and unaccountable regime. Ergo, the government that is promoting LCDS in the name of preserving our forests is the same government that is overwhelmed by corruption. And that is the relevant point of my letter to the UNEP Executive Director, because the world has to know that the same President who has been recognised and awarded as a crusader in the climate change fight, presides over a corrupt government that shows no signs of cleaning up.
I will eat a piece of Exxon Christmas Cake with your ingredients inside.
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