Nov 06, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe- Campbell
The hegemony of graft in public offices is often the highlight of white collar crime in Guyana. However,
even as he admitted that corruption in Government offices remains a problem, President David Granger was keen to point out that it is “not only government officials who wear white collar.” The national leader said that white collar crime is very much alive in the private sector and needs to be tempered.
The President made these comments during the Government-produced television programme—The Public Interest.
Granger had sanctioned 50 forensic audits to be carried out at various state agencies. The findings of these investigations were damning and various levels of malpractice were revealed. Some forensic auditors recommended that the government pursue legal action. However there has been a paucity of prosecutions and many public servants implicated in these audits remain on the job.
During the Public Interest, Granger was asked to give a timeline for the nation to see action taken against those tainted officials who remain in the system.
Granger responded that his government cannot take condign action. He said, “It is a matter for the court; we can only investigate. Due process must be followed.”
The President hinted at the reason for the limited prosecutions when he mentioned newspaper reports of a magistrate who said that “there was insufficient evidence (in a criminal case). Granger said, that insufficient is not the same thing as innocent. The case to which the President referred is one involving Public Service Commissioner, Carvil Duncan.
Duncan was facing charges of fraud following findings that he paid himself approximately $1M and allegedly conspired with Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) of the Guyana Power and Light, Mr. Aeshwar Deonarine, for an unapproved transfer of approximately $27M, both sums from the PetroCaribe Fund, into Deonarine’s personal bank account.
But Duncan was freed of the theft charge last week when the magistrate pronounced that there was insufficient evidence.
Granger told reporters, “We have to be very careful that we do not end up with egg on our face by bringing cases and for some reason or the other the prosecution is not as robust as we expect.”
The President wants to make sure that when the government advances, it is in a strong position equipped with enough evidence to see that justice is served to the people of Guyana.
The Head of State boasted about the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission. He said that that the presence of that commission will help in the reduction of corruption. “The government and public servants ought not to become involved in awarding contracts directly.”
Granger resolved that his administration will continue efforts to “ensure that persons who have been accused of corrupt transactions are not kept in those positions. But as far as white collar crime is concerned you must realize that not only government officials wear white collars.”
Being a student of history, Granger recalled that Guyana has come out of a “very long period of illegality.” He said that the prevalence of illegalities in Guyana became so intense that some illegalities are now being accepted as the norm. President Granger pointed to backtracking.
Granger said that even though backtracking is illegal, he read statements from members of a “certain chamber of commerce” who actually called for the backtrack routes to be kept open. Granger chuckled as he offered the reason given by those who asked for this illegality to be condoned. “They say it is quicker.”
The President also referenced an incident that occurred a few months ago. There was a huge explosion at Port Kaituma “because of the importation of illegal fuel and the conditions under which the fuel was being distributed.”
Granger said that the smuggling of gold and diamond out of the country is also an example of white collar crime that is of serious concern to the government.
He said that the people perpetuating these crimes are “not small fries; these are not people from broken homes; these are people who are businessmen.”
“I agree it is a problem but I cannot promise that the solution will be quick. We are working to ensure that the institutions are in place.”
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