The recent contention by officials at the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU) that billions were
lost under the PPP through corruption of various forms is not only utter trash in the eyes of the Opposition, but also indicates a “psychological or psychotic disorder of some sorts”.
Specifically making this, and other harsh criticisms yesterday, was Executive Member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Anil Nandlall.
His statements come in wake of remarks by SARU that Guyana lost $28 to $35B every year through procurement fraud, $90B through illicit capital flight, and $188B through the underground economy. This adds up to a grand total of $306-$313 billion per year.
The anti-corruption body said that this is a “conservative” numerical image of the state of corruption which existed under the former administration.
But Nandlall insists that SARU is peddling nothing but fiction.
“In the end, those who concocted this trash themselves begun to believe them. It must be a psychotic and psychological disorder of some kind when persons start to believe their own fabrications. They become delusional,” Nandlall asserted.
The former Attorney General also stated that $300B is nearly twice the size of the last budget presented by the PPP/C in office. He added that it is even more than the 2017 National Budget presented by this Government.
Nandlall noted however that SARU chose not to explain why or how the 26 forensic auditors failed to unearth this scale of massive corruption.
“Are these forensic auditors so incompetent? Neither did they explain how such magnitude of corruption could have escaped the Auditor General’s annual report as well as, the Public Accounts Committee, always chaired by the PNC/APNU, from 1992 to 2015. Was the PNC/APNU, so inept? Or were they complicit?” Nandlall questioned.
The Opposition Member also stressed that the PPP has been out of Government for nearly two years. He deduced, therefore, that the Treasury should have an extra $600B which would have been saved because of the PPP not being in office.
He said, too, that one must also add the billions, which Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman had said were smuggled out in gold under the PPP, annually, but which his Ministry has stopped since the change of Government.
In this regard, Nandlall said, “Where is this windfall of billions now? How come, with all this extra money and billions more being collected under the massive regime of new taxes, the economy is in shambles and the US dollar has skyrocketed to the highest it has ever reached.”
The Opposition Member added, “Why can’t this Government use these new found billions to keep GuySuCo alive, pay our teachers, our public servants and law enforcement officers promised increases in salaries? Or is it that the APNU/AFC, is stealing all this money? Somebody in Government must answer these questions!”
As for the SARA Bill, Nandlall, like some members of the Private Sector, maintained that it contains dozens of provisions which cannot withstand the litmus test of constitutionality. He stressed that “no amount of inane ramblings will change that”. Nandlall insisted that the Bill will only attract several legal challenges upon its enactment.
The Private Sector Commission recently expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that consultations held last year on the draft Bill for the State Assets Recovery Agency was perhaps, just for show.
The feeling of the commission is premised on the understanding that the draft Bill, which was initially submitted to stakeholders for discussion, is essentially the same Bill that was laid recently in the National Assembly.
The private sector body recalled that last year, during consultations which were held by the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Commission and others, obtained legal advice on the Bill regarding its draconian nature and the potential impact it would have on investor confidence.
But even after concerns were submitted to that effect with proposed amendments, the Commission was taken aback after it learnt that the Bill was submitted with no meaningful changes to its provisions.
The Commission, via a letter to the House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland, said that it maintains that the provisions of the Bill are in conflict with the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana and constitute a threat to democracy and good governance.
The Private Sector body added, “The Commission therefore humbly beseeches that the State Assets Recovery Agency Bill, as it was tabled, be submitted to a Special Select Committee where its provisions, and implications of these, can be thoroughly examined and debated upon, and where civil society may be invited to speak.”
CEO of the State Assets Recovery Unit, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer recently told Kaieteur News that the changes proposed by the Commission were based on the fact that they did not understand several aspects of the Bill.
The SARU Officer said that while the Commission was not alone in this boat, efforts were made to ensure that all misunderstandings regarding the Bill were clarified.
He said, “I do recall their concerns with the Bill but the truth is, that the criticisms we received on the Bill were largely due to the fact that people did not understand it, and that was the case with the Commission.”
Heath-Retemyer said that there were no “substantial” changes made to the provisions but there was some “tightening of the language used.”
The Bill also provides for SARA to be enabled to seek the recovery of such property wherever in the world that property may be located, and must also raise public awareness on the dangers of corruption and other crime.
As part of the need to maintain and upkeep public confidence in the criminal justice system, Head of SARU, Professor Clive Thomas, explained that the Director must, before undertaking civil recovery proceedings, consider whether the recovery of State property will be better secured by criminal proceedings.
He said that the Director and named members of SARA staff may exercise the powers of police, customs and immigration officers, if so designated by the relevant Ministers, upon the Director’s request.
The Director will also be under a duty to ensure training in the operation of the Act is available to professionals, and to ensure relevant staff are trained and accredited in financial investigation.
The SARU Head said that mutual cooperation between the Director of Public Prosecutions and Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit is a requirement, and the Commissioner of Police must provide such assistance as is requested by the Director.
He said that the Director may enter into binding memoranda of understanding with other Government or public bodies, and is able to collaborate with any State organ, foreign government or international or regional organization, in the recovery of State property.
The Bill sets out that the Director is thus authorized to use the funds to commence actions under the Act, to make certain payments e.g. to pay experts to assist him in carrying out SARA functions, to fund training and capacity building, or to compensate victims who suffered loss as a result of unlawful conduct.
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