The newly formed Transparency Institute of Guyana (TIG) has pointed to the existence of “petty and grand” corruption, and plans to campaign for a change in bribery and other anti-corruption laws, says Nadia Sagar. She will seek the support of frustrated Guyanese.
“Ultimately, the integrity of our institutions will be challenged and I think we have reached that point,” Nadia Sagar, the President of the Institute, said yesterday while speaking about the effects of corruption.
“I think all Guyanese need to look carefully at what is happening in society and take a stand and say we are not prepared to accept any less than a government or a society that is open, transparent and accountable to the people.”
The main concern of the Institute, Sagar said, is that there seems to be an overwhelming amount of corruption, or at least the perception that this is the case.
She said that this is evident in the stories in the media as well as in day to day life, where persons are asked for a bribe for services, and on the other hand where people believe that it is only by “passing something” that they can access certain services with ease.
“It’s time for people to say ‘this can’t go on any longer, let’s make a change.’ And we have seen that people have the power to effect change. People are effecting change and that’s what we hope to inspire,” said Sagar.
An attorney by schooling, Sagar heads up a team of seven directors who will embark on a strategic plan to push for transparency in both the public and private sectors.
“Our goal is really to promote transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors and hopefully have some impact on curbing or eradicating corruption in Guyana,” she said.
She said that corruption is evident in the fact that rules are being broken at the lowest level of society and “at the highest level of officialdom in Guyana.”
She emphasized that the Institute is not anti-government, even if its directors are allowed to have their independent political affiliations.
“We are here to educate the society about impacts of corruption, and to try to mobilize a core movement interested in anti-corruption measures to a point where they can effect change in their communities and in the country as a whole,” Sagar stated.
She told Kaieteur News that it comes down to building an anti-corruption movement that has the citizens alert to corruption and standing up to say they are not prepared to live in a society that is corrupt or that is perceived to be corrupt.
In an interview with this newspaper, she said that the Institute has a strategic plan to interact with young people at all levels of schooling. Further, the Institute plans various ways of educating the population about corruption, and to emphasise that good governance is the way to go. She said that the Institute’s outreach will take place in all regions.
Sagar said that the Institute hopes that the government would see it as a partner, stressing that any good government would want to have clear, transparent practices.
“They must want to ensure their practices are transparent and that they are accountable to the people,” she stated.
“Whatever the government does in their managing of this country, it is accountable to the people,” she declared.
For private companies, especially those that are shareholder-driven, Sagar said that it is expected that they have a “best practice” approach to manage their organisations.
Even before its official launch, the Institute pressed for a review of the Freedom of Information Bill that has been taken to Parliament.
She said that the Bill, as it stands, would prevent roadblocks to accessing information when access to information needs to be a straightforward process.
Sagar pointed out that the Institute will seek to offer guidance to citizens on how to access information.
Further, she said that the Institute will look at recommending changes to laws which are outdated, such as bribery laws.
She said that in Guyana there is a culture where people are afraid of being victimized if they speak out about corruption. She said that even people who want to be part of the Institute are afraid that they are going to be targeted.
“There is no doubt we have problems in Guyana. Guyanese people have reached a point where they are hopeless and helpless and they don’t have a voice to say how they feel about corruption.”
The Institute aims for a country “where citizens are able to access and meet their basic needs in healthcare, education, housing and employment without fear or favour; where information that affects the citizens are freely available; where public and private officials in positions of trust are held accountable; and where transparency in public and private institutions allows citizens to participate meaningfully in the decisions affecting them.”
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