In Antigua, the government of that country has foregone a Commission of Inquiry into a major contract signed by the previous administration. Instead that government launched a forensic investigation and arising out of that process a number of ‘persons of interest’ to the investigation had been identified.
The contract in question was a major one and the sum involved astronomical compared to some of the contracts that are signed in Guyana. And for this reason alone it would seem to be a disincentive for external investigators to be hired to undertake a forensic audit of some of the contracts signed by the government of Guyana prior to the elections of this year.
The value of the contract would not justify the high cost of hiring forensic external auditors to undertake such an exercise in Guyana where a number of controversial contracts were signed, many were said to be over-priced.
However, that does not mean that there should be no investigation of those contracts. It would be a disgrace if the present administration were to operate under the pretext that there are no concerns over these contracts. There are numerous concerns which have been highlighted in this newspaper and elsewhere and which require some form of inquiry.
While the hiring of external forensic auditors is going to be prohibitive and beyond the reach of the government, considering what is likely to be recovered, there is no reason why internal auditors cannot effectively do the job.
When, for example, questions surfaced about the cost of the sugar packaging plant an Enmore, this newspaper offered to pay for an audit of the cost of the facility. My understanding is that this offer still stands.
There is no reason why well-intentioned individuals in Guyana cannot be asked to scrutinize the many controversial contracts signed, including privatizations and contracts in the drainage and irrigation sector, to see whether there are any anomalies and whether there is a need to identify persons of interest.
The President of Guyana has already indicated that he is interested in reducing corruption this year. A good way to begin would be to ensure transparency. As such, the details of all the controversial contracts should be made public. In this way, the public will decide that these contracts are above board based on the details being made public. Everything should now be laid bare so that they can be examined.
There is also a need for a commission of inquiry into the collapse of CLICO. Trinidad and Tobago, which suffered the most as a result of the financial implosion of this regional financial giant, has launched an inquiry. Some interesting things have emerged which have so far stunned the public. This is the value always of a Commission of Inquiry, something that the Jagdeo administration, for reasons which it only knows best, utilized very sparingly.
It is time for the CLICO (Guyana) debacle to be fully investigated. One of the benefits to the government of such an investigation is that it will clear up allegations that there was inside information made available which allowed selected persons to get their monies out before the crash.
It is also important for lessons to be learnt from every situation and this can emerge. But as with any inquiry, the greatest value is to be found in the answers to any questions such as why did the collapse occur.
The fact that certain contracts have already been signed does not exclude them from scrutiny. In fact, within the PPP administration there is precedent for signed contracts to be renegotiated.
When the PPP/C took office in 1992 they renegotiated contracts in which persons were given large amounts of land by the previous administration. There is therefore no reason why all the existing contracts, including the privatization of state property should not be scrutinized so as to ensure that the taxpayers of this country were not taken for a ride.
And if needs be that contracts have to be renegotiated because they represented blatant cronyism or skullduggery, then so be it.
And if it means that persons have to be identified as being of interest to the law enforcement authorities as a result of this scrutiny, even if those persons are party supporters, then so be it. Let the chips fall where they have to fall because there is something that is far more important than anything else.
That thing is to ensure that some of the blatant acts of skullduggery never again occur in the history of this country for we are too small a country for there to be first-class corruption. It will ruin this country more than it has already done and this we cannot afford.
The government went to parliament to regularize concessions that it had granted to a certain investor. Well, if this can happen, there is no reason why the government cannot go back to the parliament- yes, the opposition controlled parliament- to repossess property for which the coffers of the state has been shortchanged.
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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