The people depend on State agencies and regulators to police that which they, as individuals, are not in position to do on their own, be it for the lack of legal powers, financial resources, skills or expertise.
The rationale for creating agencies like the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) and the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) with investigative powers and resources at its disposal is that these entities have specialised skills to focus on their mandates.
They are independent agencies with national jurisdiction to investigate and charged public officials, past or present who have illegally obtained state properties or has profited from the illegal use of state resources. Rules and laws must be enforced on a large scale. Individual citizens cannot do that.
SARA and SOCU are mandated to retrieve state resources and properties allegedly stolen or acquired through illegal means by public officials. Their vigilance and zero-tolerance approach are guided by the rule of law. Both agencies are considered the nation’s gate-keeper to safeguard state assets.
The government could not depend on the eyes of the public alone. But the opposition has labelled SOCU, which it created and SARA as witch-hunting agencies that are harassing only members of the PPP who claimed that they have nothing to hide.
Lest we forget, millions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent to conduct audits of government agencies and ministries. The audit reports disclosed massive acts of corruption and the barefaced use of state funds for personal gain by officials of the former administration. The audits also revealed that the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) spent millions to develop house lots on the prime waterfront property at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara, popularly known as Pradoville 2. The house lots, which were fully equipped with paved roads, drainage and a sewage system were sold to former high-ranking government officials in the last administration, including former president Jagdeo at substantially below market value, thereby depriving the state of its full benefits.
Given the illicit nature of the land deal, both SOCU and SARA launched separate investigations into the prime waterfront land scheme development project at Sparendaam. After a thorough inquiry, both agencies claimed that they had obtained enough credible evidence to file criminal and civil charges against a number of ex-Ministers, friends of the PPP and former president Jagdeo for the use of state resources for personal gain.
The reports were far reaching in that they have alleged that there was no advertising of the lots for sale, or no indication of how those who acquired the lots were selected. The reports suggest that former administration officials have violated the laws pertaining to the acquisition of house lots as enunciated by the Central Housing and Planning Authority, whereby anyone who already owned a house lot would be barred from acquiring another. As reported, persons who had acquired house lots at Pradoville 2 had already owned house lots through prior allocation. Former president Jagdeo and a couple of former ministers were deemed to be such persons.
What is even more disturbing and perhaps ridiculous is the fact that the average price per house lot at Pradoville 2 was about G$1.5 million, which is far less than what the majority of Diamond residents paid for house lots not remotely as exquisite. This is wrong and it should concern all of us. The reports by SARU and SOCU have engaged the attention of the police legal advisor, former Justice Claudette Singh, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecution who seem stumped on instituting criminal charges against the high-ranking officials in the last administration. The DPP should have recused herself from the case because she is the owner of property in the said area, which is a conflict of interest. Despite the fact that SOCU had questioned Jagdeo, Roger Luncheon and several others on more than one occasion, only the former head of NICIL, Winston Brassington and former Minister of Finance, Ashni Singh have been charged so far.
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