Oct 03, 2016 News
Is the APNU+AFC administration making dedicated and meaningful efforts to remedy the problems hindering the restoration of good governance, transparency and accountability?
The answer seems to be a resounding ‘no,’ according to some anti-corruption advocates.
Specifically, former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, expressed that he has “mixed feelings” when it comes to government’s performance in this area.
“I cannot honestly tell myself that this Government is fulfilling its promise when it comes to fighting corruption without fear or favour. I am not happy or comfortable with their efforts thus far. It is not enough. The promise of greater governance and accountability is yet to be realised by them.
“We voted for change and took them at their word. They made a number of promises on the campaign trail about what they would and wouldn’t do in 100 days. It is now 17 months and we are yet to make significant moves in the direction of accountability.”
Though he holds these views, the Chartered Accountant said that it is important to bear in mind that he did say that he has “mixed feelings.” That said, he continues to maintain as he has said in previous interviews that there are a few good things which the government has done. In this regard, he cited the establishment of the Bid Protest Committee and the refinement of the nation’s anti-money laundering laws.
“But even in those areas, there are issues which could affect Government’s efforts thus far at accountability. There are members of the Bid Protest Committee who have no background in procurement. This is important because when they make a decision, it cannot be challenged…,” expressed a concerned Goolsarran.
Goolsarran said that democracy and accountability are the twin sides of the same coin. He said that democracy leads to accountability which in turn leads to development. He stressed that the lack of democracy leads to a lack of accountability which in turn leads to a lack of development.
“The history of Guyana during the period 1968 to 1981 attests to these assertions. The Hoyte Administration tried to retrieve the situation in terms of governance, transparency and accountability but its efforts were short-lived as a result of a change in Government,” said the anti -corruption advocate.
“The late Cheddi Jagan continued from where Hoyte left off until 1997 when he died. Since then, we began to lose ground, so much so that for the last 10 years we scored the lowest in the Caribbean, except for Haiti, on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), hovering between 25 to 30 out of 100. It is highly unlikely that we will fare better when the CPI results are announced for 2016.”
Goolsarran commented that the present Administration won the May 2015 elections by a very slim margin with the promise of doing better on the governance, transparency and accountability front.
He said that after 17 months in office, there are mixed reactions from all sections of society as to whether it is fulfilling its promise of “a good life for all”.
The Chartered Accountant also pointed to the fact that despite its many promises of better access to information, this promise is yet to be realised by the administration. He emphasised that this is key to ensuring that the government of the day is held accountable.
Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds said that a lack of transparency on the part of any government is unacceptable, especially for a government that rose to power on a pro-transparency platform.
He said the problem is that Guyana experienced 50 years of unaccountable government. In this regard, he commented that there are some things like unaccountability that outlive change of governments.
“It is a culture which is not going to change overnight. The government always has an eye on whether strict accountability would hurt it politically, largely because cronyism and favoritism are so much the norm in government behavior. Having said that, this government, coming as it has on the heels of the most unaccountable government in the country’s history is being pressured to be seen to be accountable.”
The political activist said that the margin for error is not very wide. He said that the Government has to do better in this regard.
“That is why dismantling the web of official corruption at all levels is important. A government that is less prone to corruption has much more incentive to be open and accountable. The government also has to disentangle itself from corporate clientelism, whereby it finds itself wittingly and unwittingly in bed with these big money interests who are not shy to ‘pay for play.’ Once the government gets into that game, the space for accountability shrinks,” the political activist said.
The WPA Executive member said that there has to be clear guidelines on how the government engages with foreign and local capital. He believes that if those guidelines are consistent and in the interest of the country, then there is less possibility for sweetheart deals, and concessions are not likely to exceed acceptable norms. All of this, he said, would eventually mean that transparency becomes less of a problem.
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