– says Jagdeo while reissuing declaration challenge
Public accountability is likely to be taken to the next level with the impending State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA). However, former President Bharrat Jagdeo has once again thrown down the gauntlet for all Members of Parliament (MPs) to declare their assets.
Jagdeo was at the time addressing the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GM&SA) at its midyear business luncheon. He argued against any delays in MPs on both sides of the house publicly declaring their assets.
Jagdeo argued that the PPP once proposed that an international firm be hired to probe the assets of past and current government officials. He reissued that challenge, stating that the government does not have to wait on legislation.
“We went to parliament and we asked that the records be made public and the tax records for Members of Parliament,” Jagdeo said.
“They voted against it. We put a proposal to hire an international firm now to find assets for all former officials and current officials of Government. Shares, bank accounts, properties, they can do that tomorrow. We don’t have to wait on legislation.”
In January, a bill was brought to the National Assembly by Opposition Member of Parliament, Juan Edghill, to have all MPs declare their assets for the last 10 years to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA). The coalition had voted it down, with a new motion being introduced to reinforce existing requirements for MPs to make their declarations to the Integrity Commission.
At present, the Integrity Commission is without a Chairman and the requisite Commissioners. These officials were not appointed under President Donald Ramotar and are still to be appointed under President David Granger.
Last year, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had said that a review of the commission’s mandate was underway. He had asserted that this was to see how to give it powers to not only take statements, but also investigate the truthfulness of the declarations.
Under the laws, public officers including the President, Permanent Secretaries, Director of Public Prosecutions, Auditor General, Commissioner of Police, Army Chief-of-Staff, Heads of the Services Commissions, Foreign Affairs officials, Judges, Magistrates and Department Heads are required to declare their assets.
Also required to submit declaration forms of their earnings and gifts received are Regional Executive Officers, the Chief Elections Officer, Mayors, Chairpersons and Chief Executive Officers of state companies, Registrars of Lands and the Commissioner of the Guyana Revenue Authority, along with Presidential Advisors, and Heads of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and Guyana Forestry Commission.
It was last April that Jagdeo had first issued his initial challenge for an international firm to probe the assets of officials past and present.
It had come in the wake of the infamous Panama papers leak, which had implicated several prominent Guyanese in retention to assets overseas.
Meanwhile, President David Granger has stated that by year end, the Public Integrity Commission should be fully functioning and complemented by Commissioners and Chairman.
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