By Kiana Wilburg
Out of 176 nations that were assessed for perceptions of corruption last year, Guyana came in at the 108th position with a score of 34 out of 100. This is according to Transparency International, an organization that gives voice to the
victims and witnesses of corruption. It works together with Governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.
Through chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, it prides itself on leading the fight against corruption.
The Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide. The scores are measured from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The report said that any score below 50 indicates a serious corruption problem. Guyana has never been above that midpoint mark. Be that as it may, its 2016 ranking represents a slight improvement over its performance in prior years. In 2015, it placed 119 out of 168 countries. In 2014 it was ranked 124 out of 175 countries.
Furthermore, Guyana shares its spot at 108 with Egypt, Algeria, Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire. In the meantime, the report shows that Trinidad and Tobago is just above Guyana with a score of 35 out of 100. With that score, the Caricom member state was ranked at 101.
Denmark and New Zealand continue to boast the highest scores with 90 out of 100. Somalia was listed as the most corrupt with a score of 10 out of 100 and a ranking of 176. China is ranked at 79 and has a score of 40 out of 100.
Transparency International noted in its report that over 120 countries scored below 50 which means less than a third of countries are even above the midpoint.
The corruption watchdog said that the global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector. The body said that this year’s results highlight the connection between corruption and inequality, which feed off each other to create a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth.
It said that the interplay of corruption and inequality also feeds populism.
“When traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical. Increasingly, people are turning to populist leaders who promise to break the cycle of corruption and privilege. Yet, this is likely to exacerbate – rather than resolve – the tensions that fed the populist surge in the first place.”
“The lower-ranked countries in our index are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary. Even where anti-corruption laws are on the books, in practice they’re often skirted or ignored. People frequently face situations of bribery and extortion, rely on basic services that have been undermined by the misappropriation of funds, and confront official indifference when seeking redress from authorities that are on the take.”
With the aforementioned in mind, Transparency International said that grand corruption thrives in such settings. Furthermore, it stated that higher-ranked countries such as Denmark tend to have higher degrees of press freedom, access to information about public expenditure, stronger standards of integrity for public officials, and independent judicial systems.
Since the APNU+AFC administration took office, a number of steps have been taken to put a dent in corruption. The Government established a State Asset Recovery Unit, which will soon become Guyana’s anti-corruption agency. It also made considerable moves to root out corruption and bribery in the forestry sector. This, however, was not without contributing effects on the declining production figures of the sector.
There has also been the launch of over 40 forensic audits, so as to identify areas of abuses which took place under the previous administration and to ensure that measures are implemented to avoid repetition.
After many years, the Government also succeeded in establishing the long awaited Public Procurement Commission. But be that as it may, the APNU+AFC administration continues to face harsh criticisms that it is not moving as swiftly as it should in the fight against corruption.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) holds a different view. In fact, the party insists that in a period of 20 months, the coalition administration has been able to put a “significant dent” in corruption.
At the level of ministries and other government agencies, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson was the first to contend that there have been meaningful improvements in the fight against corruption.
Speaking for his Ministry, Patterson said he had the “good fortune” to be in charge of an area that is susceptible to fraud. And within 18 months, the General Secretary of the AFC was proud to disclose that the opportunities for corruption to occur have been reduced considerably. While no one can claim that corruption has been eliminated altogether, the Public Infrastructure Minister stated that moves have been made to get the process started.
The AFC General Secretary also stated that every report of wrongdoing in his field or against his staff is always investigated without fear or favour.
Offering similar remarks was Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes. Hughes told Kaieteur News that the administration is committed to the process of reducing corruption in Guyana.
She emphasized however that the task is not an overnight one, as corruption has become a culture in Guyana. In this regard, the Executive Member of the AFC said that the coalition administration has been focusing on ensuring that ministries and agencies have the necessary checks and balances to reduce all forms of corruption. Hughes said, too, that the importance and significance of taking such an action cannot be emphasized enough.
At the level of state, Leader of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan believes that there have been major improvements in the fight against corruption. In this regard, he pointed to the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.
The Minister of Public Security expressed, “We have done what everyone should be proud of when it comes to ensuring that this big anti-corruption institution called the Public Procurement Commission came into being in the second year of our being in office. It took how long for us to get it? Almost a whole decade and more, and this is in spite of the fact that the Constitution made provision for it.”
The AFC Leader also chided the previous Cabinet that was run by the PPP for such a constitutional office not being established. He said that it was the Cabinet of former President Bharrat Jagdeo that set the tone for all other cabinets under the PPP to never give up that no-objection role in the public procurement process.
He said, “We have been clamouring for that while in opposition…And having it today is a far, far, cry from what we have come from.”
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