Sep 07, 2015 News
“We don’t want to just haul in people for the sake of making the headlines…crooks and criminals will obviously cover their trails and that is what we are trying to unearth…”
By: Kiana Wilburg
For those who believe that the coalition administration is slow to prosecute the “big fish”, President David Granger reassured that his government is only taking time to do proper investigation to bring to light over 20 years of corruption.
The Head of State disclosed that his government is seeking international assistance to help trace illegally spent monies from the government’s coffers.
Facing questions from this newspaper on government’s revamped show, “The Public Interest” regarding the prosecution of the perpetrators of corruption and stolen state assets, Granger noted that already, moves are being made to address these two issues.
“There are two sides of the coin. Were we to dismiss persons from the public service or haul in persons from the underworld, people would say where is the evidence? And sometimes it is not there to see and we have to do proper investigations and that is what is being done. So we don’t want to just haul in people for the sake of making the headlines…crooks and criminals will obviously cover their trails and that is what we are trying to unearth.”
“It has only been a hundred days and some of this criminality has been going on for 20 years, so some of the birds may have flown and some of the big fishes may have swum away, but we are doing our work. As you know, some committees have been established and Presidential Advisor, Dr. Clive Thomas, is looking into asset recovery. So we are confident that we are going to find the assets and as the old saying goes, the old dogs know where the bones are buried in the backyard.”
President Granger was subsequently asked by this newspaper if he intends to partner with the international community on ensuring prosecution of those perpetrators who have sought refuge in greener pastures.
He said that already, some computer experts have offered programmes to trace the disposal of assets.
“Nowadays, when people try to move assets around the world it is not as difficult as before to find out the instruments which have been used to send money from place to place, and we are getting advice and information. We expect that in the fullness of time we will be able to track monies which have been illegally spent from the government coffers. But yes, you are correct, we have sought international assistance,” Granger added.
Since the Granger-led administration assumed office, there seems to be a creeping impatience in some quarters to see all those who appear to be “too big to jail” hauled before the courts.
Many yearn for the prompt prosecution of all those accused of raiding the public coffers, misusing assets of the State, or who acted in a manner that brought disgrace to their prestigious office.
To date, only three public officials have been brought before the court for such questionable behaviour. These are, former Minister of Health, Bheri Ramsaran, former Public Service Minister, Jennifer Westford and her Personnel Officer Margaret Cummings.
In spite of the edginess of some members of the public who desire quick justice, some political activists believe that the Granger administration is not slow to prosecution. But they also feel that the government isn’t making substantial advancement either.
Popular columnist, Freddie Kissoon is one such critic who holds this position.
He had said, “I would argue that they aren’t slow but they certainly aren’t making considerable progress. Maybe it is the half-full/half empty analogy. One of the factors that the coalition government has in its arguments against its detractors is the mountain of madness they have inherited.”
Kissoon had said that Guyana’s economy, bureaucratic and legal fulcrums, infrastructural facilities and social structures were severely weakened under the “shambolic rule” of former Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar.
He had said that the solution pathway is going to take years. In that context, he said that the citizenry has to have patience. The communist had argued, however, that the anti-corruption pursuits of the government have not been dynamic.
Kissoon said that the nation is still to hear about the state of the GuyOil gas -scam and the two senior officers who awarded themselves back pay for services provided while on the Board of the Guyana Power and Light without consulting any legal authority.
The political activist emphasized that if government continues with these exposures, citizens will ultimately want early police action.
“Even the Crum-Ewing case doesn’t look good. The nation feels the intellectual planners of the murder have not been touched,” Kissoon had said.
Were it in his power, he would recommend for the establishment of an anti corruption committee with wide spread jurisdiction. He suggested that such a committee should include people with legal and accounting skills.
“Let them go after the financial nastiness during the Jagdeo/Ramotar reign and seek prosecution very urgently. Surely, there must be a huge paper trail of Jagdeo’s questionable use of the country’s resources. From the time this government came into power, Jagdeo should have been investigated,” the columnist had said.
Dr. David Hinds, an Associate Professor at the Arizona State University, believes the coalition government needs to be given the opportunity to conduct proper investigations before prosecuting persons, lest it be accused, as it already has been, of witch-hunting.
“I know people are impatient, but even the instances of corruption that are obvious need to be carefully documented before prosecution. Accumulating the evidence needed to prosecute those suspected of misappropriation of government assets takes time.”
The University professor had said that the nation needs to allow the forensic auditors to do their work thoroughly. He said, too, that the State Asset Recovery Unit also has to make sure that it is engaged in investigation and not witch-hunting. According to Hinds, one must bear in mind that it takes some time to catch and follow the trail of corruption.
Overall, Dr. Hinds believes that government is doing a good job. The University professor said that it is not easy coming into government after 23 years.
As for Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram, he hopes that the Government is serious about prosecution.
“After all, accountability requires that persons be made liable for any acts of wrongdoing committed by them,” the lawyer had said.
The Chartered Accountant reminded that prior to May 2015, the APNU+AFC had indicated that wrongdoing and lawbreaking would be punished.
“They would be expected to keep that commitment. The whole idea of the rule of law and of accountability is that persons must answer for and be held responsible for their actions. So that whether it is about corruption, other forms of crime or misfeasance in public office, persons should be brought before the courts.”
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