I remember the anti-corruption campaign launched against the Bharrat Jagdeo administration. Almost every day there was published evidence but nothing changed. On one occasion I provided harsh evidence of a woman working for $40,000 a month at one of the petrol service stations buying a house in Bel Air Park for $60 million.
I took this information to Bharrat Jagdeo who promised to investigate. I went to the then Tax Chief, Khurshid Sattaur, with the same information. Nothing happened. It was as if the government condoned corruption.
The nation saw people getting rich overnight. I remember the then Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, suing because Kaieteur News photographed his beach house which must have cost a handsome penny. And this building was removed from the actual residence.
I got mail that suggested that Irfaan’s mother was a teacher and his grandfather was something else, perhaps a chauffeur, so it was not impossible for them to contribute to Irfaan’s home. Further, the supporters, including some of his party leaders, told me that Irfaan worked at the World Bank for three years.
The bottom line was that all the money put together could not have afforded such buildings. At the same time he had other properties in various parts of the country.
Bharrat Jagdeo, according to his Attorney General, had nothing ten years before he constructed his mansion at Sparendaam. When the matter was raised with the income tax department and with the then General Secretary Clement Rohee, I got two different answers.
The income tax people said that it was not possible from Jagdeo’s earnings. Rohee said that he probably saved every cent that he worked for knowing that the money supported by a substantial mortgage could not give him such wealth.
It became clear to the nation that corruption was rampant during the era of the People’s Progressive Party administration. Years later, Jagdeo told a press conference that his government was corrupt. Then he modified his statement to say that the present administration is more corrupt.
There are people serving during the administration who have been there for almost forever. A tiger does not lose its stripes. But there have been others who joined the ranks of the corrupt. One of them seems to be the Town Clerk who has since proceeded on leave pending the outcome of a Commission of Inquiry.
A woman reported that a plot of land she occupies in Festival City caught the attention of the Town Clerk who offered her $12 million. He told her that she was too poor to develop the land and that she should sell. She refused.
She then reported that the Town Clerk, who at the time had pretentions to religion, took to demolishing structures that she had on the property. Fortunately, she still holds on to the property.
Then from appearances, the Town Clerk became a successful man moving from the proverbial rags to riches. Just this past week evidence surfaced that the bought a piece of property in Happy Acres for $30 million.
People are also pointing to his mode of transport, a personal owned $13 million vehicle. Did all that money come from City Hall which proclaims to be cash-strapped and often cannot pay the staff?
Fingers are also pointing to some in Government circles although no one can provide evidence. There is speculation. Some claim that the Minister of State gets financial largesse through a man who was once close to Bharrat Jagdeo.
Fortunately for Minister Harmon, all that he owned was acquired before he became a Minister and before his party got into government.
Others are suggested to be corrupt but again, no evidence. There is talk that the rental of the bond in Albouystown was a case of providing money for someone. No evidence. If they say George Norton then I know that his possessions at River View on the Essequibo River was there for years, even before he got actively involved in politics.
There was the case against former Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford. She was accused of helping herself to $600 million. She was acquitted recently in court. And there are many others because the state simply cannot secure convictions. Knowing is one thing; proving in a court of law is another.
And while the allegations fly, the public relations unit that should be making the views of the government known is silent. It fails to highlight the achievement of the government to the extent that statements by the opposition that nothing has been done has gained fertile ground.
Last week, I learnt that the wages bill has gone up, indicating that more people have gained employment in the public sector. But this is not known. Little is known about the trained public servants entering the system.
There has been infrastructural development but these have not been talked about. Many communities have upgraded roads. Some have lights and water for the first time; there is the free bus service for school children and the school-feeding programme. Nothing is said so it would appear that the government is doing nothing.
Not for a moment do I doubt there are corrupt officials but I simply do not see the evidence as I once did. I see comments on chat sites about people getting special contracts, about people doing slipshod work and drawing down millions of dollars.
I know that contractors have been blacklisted for shoddy work. There was the case of the Kato Secondary School constructed at a cost of nearly $1 billion. It was so bad that the remedial works took two years.
I know of contractors being made to correct their work at no extra cost but these things are ignored by the critics.
Meanwhile, there are people in the government who are being accused of victimization, none more than people in the Ministry of Agriculture. The supposed victims have relatives who help propagate the action. In the end, these things translate into votes and votes are what the Granger administration needs.
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