Jun 04, 2016 News
-witness protection, whistleblower legislations for public consultations
By Jarryl Bryan
The administration is finalizing several key legislative components that will ensure that action can be taken
on the myriad of forensic audits into state agencies and departments, which have been ongoing since last year.
This is according to Attorney General Basil Williams, during a press conference at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Carmichael Street, yesterday.
Williams announced that he has only seen the draft State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) legislation as of Thursday.
“Well I am now in receipt of it. I only saw it yesterday (Thursday),” Williams said. “It was sent to the Ministry. I haven’t had a chance to go through it; it’s quite thick.”
When asked about a time frame for when the legislation would be ready for tabling, Williams said that he did not have custody of the matter and would moreover have to operate alongside the SARU consultant, who is British expert Brian Horne.
“That’s for the unit, I’m just dealing with the legislation,” the Minister of Legal Affairs stressed. “And I’ll have to deal with the legislation in conjunction with the drafted consultant with the SARU unit.”
“But as soon as these chambers are satisfied with the provisions and that they convey exactly what is intended by the government, then by all means we will move forward with the legislation for passage through the National Assembly.”
He also addressed concerns about the draft witness protection and whistle blower Bills, which have been in the pipelines for years but had been consistently slowed down.
“Did Nandlall explain why he did not pass a witness protection Bill for the 23 years his Government
was in power?” he queried. “There are two Bills—the whistleblower and the witness protection (Bills). They will be taken out for consultations shortly, as is the practice.”
In the wake of several damning disclosures, including those from the forensic audits, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had stated that Government was working to provide protection to ‘whistleblowers’— those who disclose sensitive information exposing wrongdoing, including corruption.
Last year, the draft Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) 2015 had been gazetted. In it had been included provisions for regulating how reports of improper conduct are received or investigated. Clause 15 of the draft Bill provides for immunity from civil and criminal proceedings of a person making a protected disclosure.
Last year Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman had also announced that Government was poised to introduce the witness protection legislation as a Bill in the National Assembly.
He had revealed that among the measures to be enacted would be the establishment of state houses, the granting of assistance to participants and the provision of new identities where necessary.
Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan recently stated that efforts to bring those responsible for financial transgressions to justice were being delayed by fearful witnesses. He had lamented the absence of a witness protection programme.
“A lot of the witnesses that gave their evidence to the auditors are scared like hell to give their evidence to the police now, knowing that those fellows that they might bring to court know that they can suffer at their hands,” he said.
Ramjattan had gone on to state, however, that the administration would never allow stolen monies to remain with those who had stolen. Reiterating that they will be recovered, he pointed to the establishment of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU).
Incidentally, SARU head, Dr. Clive Thomas, has had cause to lament that SARU is in a “look but don’t touch” scenario. He had stated that while breakthrough discoveries had been made, SARU is unable to seize assets because of the absence of its legislation.
While Thomas had stated that the draft legislation was sent to Attorney General Basil Williams’ office, Williams had subsequently been reported as saying that he was not in possession of the legislation.
At least two audit reports- the NICIL report, compiled by Anand Goolsarran and the Guyana Marketing Corporation compiled by Saykar Boodhoo- have been clear in recommending criminal charges against those who had dealings with the agencies.
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