While it is important for public officials to declare their assets annually and timely, Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI) is expressing that an Integrity Commission is not in place, thus cannot scrutinise such returns and make appropriate enquiries.
The body is requesting that Government activate the Commission.
This was expressed in a press statement issued yesterday, on the eve of the deadline for submission of declarations.
According to President of TIGI, Anand Goolsarran, the three-person Commission, which is expected to help fight corruption, requires competent professional persons, especially in cases where there are unexplained increases in assets or the omission of significant assets. However, no such persons are in the employ of the Commission.
Goolsarran said TIGI has taken note of the announcement of the deadline for the declaration of assets by Government Ministers, Members of Parliament and senior public servants, particularly those who are involved in public procurement and the assessment and collection of Government revenues.
“According to the Integrity Commission Act, the deadline for the submission of financial returns for the previous year is June 30. Guyana has also acceded to two important anti-corruption conventions: the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption; and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Both conventions make it a requirement for the Government to put in place an effective mechanism for public officials to submit to the appropriate authority annual declarations of assets,” Goolsarran said.
Emphasizing Guyana’s shortcoming, he said that in the absence of a duly constituted Commission as well as technical experts to assist in the effort, the exercise of making annual declarations of assets is reduced to mere paperwork, and the objective of the establishment of the Integrity Commission is not achieved.
“Given Guyana’s low rating and ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the announcement of the extension of the deadline for submitting financial returns will have little or no impact on the levels of corruption that are perceived to have existed in government”, he stated.
According to Goolsarran, TIGI wants Government to take immediate steps to appoint the three-person Commission, comprising individuals of the highest level of integrity, professionalism and independence, and to provide it will the level of resources needed for it to discharge its responsibility effectively. This action will send a powerful signal that the Government is serious in its efforts to fight corruption. Any lesser arrangement will remain lip service and a source of concern, he said.
Goolsarran said TIGI reminds the Government and legislators alike of the importance of having the Public Procurement Commission in place to monitor the award of contracts for the procurement of goods and services and the execution of works, to ensure fairness, equity, the highest degree of transparency, and indeed best value for money.
“The appointment of this constitutionally mandated Commission, along with the Integrity Commission, will go a long way towards reducing perceptions about the high levels of corruption, and hence Guyana’s improvement on the CPI,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition, David Granger had made it known publicly that A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Members of Parliament would not be submitting their declarations since the Commission does not exist.
Granger said that since he became the Leader of the Opposition, President Donald Ramotar has not discussed the appointment of Commissioners for the Integrity Commission or any other outstanding constitutional appointments such as the Ombudsman.
According to Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, just prior to the beginning of this Parliamentary recess, Government recognized the significant merit in addressing issues that are really on the front burner and need the bi-partisan input. However, Government was unsuccessful in getting both sides together to see through that initiative.
“I believe that we have had engagements and I would want to advise that in these engagements between…the administration, the President and the Leader of the Opposition in the context of his constitutional role, of their constitutional role, that these engagements have been ongoing,” he said.
Dr. Luncheon said that on more than one occasion President Donald Ramotar had solicited engagements with Granger to deal with constitutional appointments and made reference to the appoints of the Chancellor, Chief Justice and Commissioner of Police.
“I hasten to add that most of these events had unsuccessful outcomes…We have been meeting and because of my role as the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, I could assure you that those constitutionally-mandated appointments in the context of vacancies, in the context of the need to appoint these constitutional post holders… the engagement will continue,” he said.
Dr. Luncheon mentioned that the previous Leader of the Opposition, Robert Corbin, made similar excuses which resulted in the Opposition Members of Parliament not submitting their declarations in the Ninth Parliament.
“Mr. Corbin is a lawyer and I wouldn’t offer any excuse for his sad, misconceived interpretation but I would do it for David (Granger) because he doesn’t have any such pretences. And of course his could be more readily excused,” Dr. Luncheon said.
He added that all the work of the Commission is essentially done by the staff with guidance from the three Commissioners. The staffers manage the routine work of the Commission.
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