As he took the floor of the National Assembly to make his contributions to the National Budget debates, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams boasted of the strides his office has made in efforts to keep corruption at bay.
Williams told Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland that the APNU/AFC Government continues the fight against corruption “which has had a debilitating effect on the economy of Guyana.” He said that this is being done through the empowerment of several agencies including the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) and the State Assets Recovery Agency.
He said that SOCU, in relation to financial crimes, has conducted investigations of offences deriving from forensic audits of Government Ministries Departments and Agencies under the last Administration. Williams said that investigations follow the trail of billions of dollars of tax payers’ money.
Williams said that it is in this connection that Special Prosecutors were appointed by the Government to prosecute persons charged with stealing State assets. He said that before embarking on any such prosecution the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) issues a fiat to empower them.
Williams also noted that in keeping with the principle enshrined in Article 13 of the Constitution of inclusionary democracy and participation of citizens, this year, the Attorney General’s Chambers held consultations and sensitization seminars with the public on the State Assets Recovery Act 2017, the Witness Protection Bill and the Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) Bill to raise awareness on the Government’s anti-corruption policies and on the protection afforded witnesses and other persons who assist in the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.
The Minister reminded that the State Assets Recovery Act of 2017 was passed in Parliament on 12 April 2017 and assented to by President David Granger on 4 May 2017. He said that the Act created the State Assets Recovery Agency in consonance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption 2003. He stated that the Agency will be headed by a Director to recover through civil proceedings State property unlawfully acquired by a public official or any other person; to provide for investigations leading to the granting by the High Court of Restraint and Civil Recovery Orders in respect of unlawfully acquired property; to engage in international cooperation in the recovery of stolen assets of States within the contemplation of the Act, and for related matters.
Williams also indicated that President David Granger has attended the Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference in July 2015 as well as the September 2015 United Nations Summit where Guyana signed on to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Minister said that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) discussed global efforts to incorporate “recovery of stolen public assets” (StPAR) as a central feature of domestic resource mobilization, particularly for developing countries. The Conference committed “to making the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) an effective instrument to deter, detect, prevent, and counter corruption and bribery, prosecute those involved in corrupt activities, and recover and return stolen assets to their country of origin.” The AAAA promised to “encourage the international community to develop good practices on asset return… indicating its support for the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank, and other international initiatives that support the recovery of stolen assets.”
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