Jul 04, 2016 News
By: Kiana Wilburg
If all goes well, it appears that Guyana will soon benefit from the expertise of some of the world’s leading specialists in detecting all forms of corruption.
The international network is said to be “extremely willing” to provide assistance regarding those damning forensic audit reports. This is according to Head of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), Dr. Clive Thomas.
The economist said that on the sidelines of a conference which was recently held in the USA, FraudNet representatives informed SARU officials that it is interested in providing assistance on the forensic audits which have been launched by the Government.
The economist noted that the association informed him and his team that it is “extremely confident that Guyana also has strong cases where assets belonging to the state can be regained.”
Thomas said he is elated that the global anti-corruption watchdog is interested in helping Guyana in this regard.
He asserted that FraudNet contains some of the world’s leading civil asset recovery specialists. The SARU Head related that the entity’s membership extends to every continent and the world’s major economies. He said, too, that FraudNet’s focus is in locating and recovering assets and proceeds of crime for victims of all types of corruption, embezzlement and Ponzi schemes.
“They also wrote a proposal for us and we will take it to Cabinet for its consideration and approval and once this is done, along with passage of our draft legislation, we would be able to hit the ground running when our work goes into full swing.”
The SARU Head said that the network had invited SARU members to participate in a one-day conference which was held in Miami, Florida on June 24, last. The conference was based on the fight against corruption and impunity in 2016 and beyond. He said that representing SARU were two of its leading members; Eric Phillips and Major (Rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer.
Just recently, Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge commented that if Guyana possessed a “sharp and competent prosecution system” then questions and doubts about whether justice would be had from those forensic audits would not even exist.
He was at the time weighing in on the concerns expressed by outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt and UK High Commissioner, Greg Quinn.
Greenidge said that he agrees with the top foreign diplomats that those who have been found by the audits to have committed any financial wrongdoing must be prosecuted. But Greenidge said that while those sentiments are taken in good faith, Government on the other hand is battling a reality which deals with the expectations of the public.
The Minister said that he is aware that the citizenry is growing tired of hearing “all the talk about we want corruption to be out and we will ensure prosecution…”
“But when they don’t see these things happening swiftly they begin to wonder if we are responsible for what is taking place. This government wants what is best for this nation. We want to see action taken on these forensic audits but people must understand that Cabinet is not the one in charge of that,” the Foreign Affairs Minister had said.
“We are clearly faced with weaknesses in some of our key institutions which are part of the process. Cabinet has issued instructions for the files to be examined and investigated by the police and for prosecutions to be executed where they could be had.
“But the problem we are facing with these forensic audits is with the competence of the institutions. People also need to understand that prosecutions are not waiting on some Cabinet decisions. Furthermore, there has been no refusal of the Cabinet to prosecute.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister reiterated that Cabinet is interested in prosecution and has spoken about the forensic audits on numerous occasions.
“But if you had a sharp and competent prosecution system here and good judges, then you won’t be asking those questions about whether we are going to see results. The reality is that the system is very weak,” Greenidge added.
Asked whether Government has reached out for international support, the Foreign Affairs Minister answered in the affirmative.
“A member state from the international community is particularly interested in helping us in securing successful prosecutions and they have told us that they will help us when that time comes.”
It was in May 2015 that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars on 45 of the 50 forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
The remaining five audits were sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Over 20 forensic audit reports have been released thus far for the public to peruse.
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