The denial of state advertisements to the independent media has unsurprisingly again reared its ugly head, this time with regard to the placement of a vacancy notice under a Government of Guyana/Caribbean Development Bank-Basic Needs Trust Fund.
What is also not surprising was the reaction of the CDB President back in May of this year when the matter was raised by this newspaper’s Publisher. The continued practice by government of favouring the two state-aligned print media houses speaks to a graver issue; that of facilitating an environment where there is no scrutiny of how taxpayers monies are being spent.
Much has been said about the responsibility of international and regional financial institutions to ensure that the funds disbursed to recipient countries are spent in the manner originally proposed.
Most times, this is a forlorn expectation, since, from all appearances, the representatives of these FIs are more interested in enhancing their creature comforts to levels only imagined back in their homeland, and this with a minimum of stress. This is all the more reason why Ambassador Brent Hardt’s interventions should be seen in a positive light; he was prepared to go beyond banal utterances that are considered diplomatic on the cocktail circuit.
What is significant but is seemingly lost in the whole scenario, is the possibilities for massive corruption because of the venal nature of government officials, and the fact that despite all expectations, foreign representatives are for the most part quite content to report that all is well to the home office Directors.
In the absence of in your face evidence of massive corruption like in the case of Kojo Annan’s oil for food scam, it remains business as usual. Of course, matters are certainly not helped by the pronouncements by policymakers from the government side that corruption only exists at mundane levels within the Public Service.
There is absolutely no acceptance that high financial crimes are being committed on an everyday basis at very high levels and which are not prosecuted. We have only to look around at the assets that government officials have acquired within a relatively short space of time to understand that unethical, even illegal acts are being perpetrated under the umbrella of connivance and obfuscation.
The fact that this government has not seen it fit to draft an implementable anti-corruption strategy is evidence enough of its intransigence in dealing with this phenomenon, which is a definite contributory factor for the country’s low regional ranking on the global Human Development Index.
Additionally, the inability of the police to investigate high financial crimes certainly renders moot the question of successful prosecution, particularly when there is no strong emphasis on developing mechanisms for corruption prevention.
Again it would not be surprising to hear that government is unable to prosecute financial criminals because of the time and cost involved, and the uncertainty of success, not to mention its new hobby horse of the opposition budget cuts.
Regardless of the reasons proffered, it is incumbent upon the administration to do all in its power to protect the nation’s wealth – an obligation that if avoided, with the risk that a new party in government, will be hard-pressed to find the resources which will be required for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country’s financial architecture and other decrepit state institutions.
It has not escaped observation the lifestyles of many government officials and the probability of their resort to transferring the proceeds of their grand corruption schemes to off-shore facilities.
Therefore, the necessity for an Integrity Commission with no partisan political axe to grind (if that is at all possible) becomes more apparent with each new revelation of mishandled public funds every passing day. Of more immediate concern is the legal and professional training of those tasked with prosecuting crimes committed by high officials including but not limited to corruption.
The time has come to root out and deal firmly with all instances of corruption both grand and petty because if this is not done forthwith, the Guyanese people are in grave danger of merely existing in a climate characterized by irrecoverable erosion of the rule of law, economic instability, and a major loss of confidence in the governance structures.
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