Apr 21, 2018 News
Despite the Opposition’s description of corruption being the worst in the country’s history, Britain believes that strides are being made in the fight in Guyana.
Calling for everyone to make it their business to stamp out corruption, British High Commissioner, Greg Quinn, was yesterday among several top officials who are pushing for the issue to take frontburner.
The calls were made shortly before a symbolic walk in the afternoon sun along the Camp Street avenue. It was boycotted by the Opposition, with just under 100 persons turning up.
Quinn’s comments on the improvements of Guyana would come as the Opposition- the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)– has been painting a bleak picture of corruption unde
r the Coalition almost three years in office.
This would come, also, after a number of ex-ministers of the PPP, have been slapped with fraud related charges. The PPP lost the 2015 elections after a series of scandals, including procurement and alleged theft of state assets
Others are set to be charged shortly for the questionable sale of a state lands and properties to themselves and close friends.
Yesterday, the Opposition boycotted the corruption walk, organised by the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), making it clear that it cannot condone a number of instances that manifested under this Coalition Government.
The instances include the questionable rental of an Albouystown property from a business to store drugs and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the purchase of pharmaceuticals by the Health Ministry.
The Coalition, under President David Granger, campaigned for the May 2015 elections insisting that it will pull out the stops to stamp out corruption.
However, there has been growing impatience in the success rate.
Yesterday, the British High Commissioner, vowing continued support for the corruption fight, noted that corruption matters as it erodes the fabric of society and undermines people’s trust in the systems of society and the institutions of society.
“It is an obstacle to democracy and rule of law.”
It also depletes national wealth and degrades the national environment.
In the midst of all of this, it must be noted that progress is being made here in Guyana in the corruption fight, based on the scores of the performance indexes.
However, he warned, while things are getting better, it is doing so “slowly”.
With Guyana still below the score of 50, Quinn said that it is an issue that has to be tackled.
“So there can be no impunity for those who are corrupt regardless of where you are. Regardless of who you are, everyone must act within and be subjected to the laws of the land.”
At the same time, Quinn said, the man and woman in the street, must also not be afraid to highlight corruption and to see those who practice it be brought to book.
To do that, people need to be assured that they will be taken seriously and that actions will be taken.
This will entail a proper reporting system in place and protection for those who report wrongdoings.
Quinn said that no one except those who practice corruption believes that it is a good thing or is acceptable.
There can be no impunity for anyone, the British High Commissioner stressed.
There was Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resource, Simona Broomes.
She said that anti-corruption is high on the agenda of the Government and it was a platform that the Coalition campaigned on.
Noting her disappointment at the turnout, the official admitted that the corruption is deeply imbedded in the country and its people.
The fight therefore has to start with the people, she urged.
Meanwhile, Major (Ret’d) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer who heads up the operational side of SARA, insisted that there is a difference SARA, its predecessor, State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
He noted that Government came to office in 2015 with an understanding they will have to deal with issue of corruption. In fact, they realized quickly that corruption was something that had made Guyana a pariah nation under the previous government.
A number of persons were assembled and SARU was established. However, it was realized that SARU lacked the powers to operation and the necessary laws were passed and came in effect last year.
SARA, he said, is concerned with civil recovery of state assets while SOCU, a police arm, is concerned with criminal charges.
SARA is more concerned with the retrieval of state patrimony including properties, lands, money, gold and vehicles.
To applause, Heath-Retemyer said that while SARA is on Main Street, SOCU is located on Camp Street- SARA has no qualms sending people who are deserving to the other end of Camp Street (jail).
Director of SARA, Professor Clive Thomas, disclosed that SARA was once housed in the Ministry of the Presidency but was removed as it cannot be seen as an extension of the executive.
He stressed that poverty is intolerable taking into account the vast wealth of Guyana.
He also lauded the role of the international community, pointing out that the issue of corruption is one that is a global fight.
Also speaking was David Robinson, Anti-Corruption Adviser for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
He noted that corruption is stealing from the poor, and does not only include the act of siphoning off resources from its intended purposes but had long time effects with key services not provided.
Corruption means that vaccines are not received, school supplies are not delivered, and roads are not built.
Noting the United Nations is fighting it with several countries on board, he said that SARA’s establishment is a step in the right direction.
Defending SARA’s work, Robinson also said that similar entities have been established in several countries including the US, Canada and Jamaica.
He urged that corruption needs to be relegated to a footnote in Guyana’s history with each a role to play.
SARA has said that the aim of the initiative was to raise awareness of corruption.
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