The APU+AFC Party had promised the nation that within 100 days of being in office, it would have accomplished several things, one of which is the establishment of an Investigative Commission on Corruption.
But after being in office for more than three years, the Commission is far from being in place.
This point was recently raised by Ram and McRae Chartered Accountants in their comprehensive review of budget 2019. The accounting firm said in its report that when it comes to the issue of corruption, the coalition administration has delivered much less than it has promised. It said that the government’s failure to establish the Investigative Commission on Corruption is an outstanding example of this.
Further to this, the accounting firm said that procurement remains another area of serious concern as the Government has failed to make the necessary legislative changes to the Procurement Act to strengthen the role and effectiveness of the Procurement Commission and to remove the overriding influence of Cabinet in the procurement process.
With no changes to the legislative framework, Ram and McRae said that the procurement process remains not only suspect, but tainted and facilitative of manipulation and corruption.
The accounting firm said, too, that the signs that the Government was not as intent on dealing with corruption as it had promised were there in the wasteful and unaccounted billion dollar expenditure on the construction of a Stadium at Homestretch Avenue.
It said that Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, who was later assigned responsibility for the Project, has not only not been any more successful at providing answers to troubling questions, but has himself, been the subject of attention and investigation in respect of the feasibility study for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge crossing by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
The firm noted that this Unit has also received, but is yet to pronounce on a complaint about the handling of the US$18 million Signing Bonus by the Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan.
As it relates to the award of security contracts, Ram and McRae opined that abuse still abounds but nothing matches the Saffon Street drug bond deal for daring and lawlessness.
The accounting firm said, “Which rational, self-respecting Government will lend money to buy a property and then lease back that property at a shocking rental equivalent that pays back the capital cost of the property in months rather than years? President Granger showed his tolerance for such egregious conduct not by calling in the Audit Office but by setting up a sub-committee of his Cabinet which found among other things, that the general terms of the lease were ‘not altogether unfavourable!”
Ram and McRae added, “Eventually, the former Health Minister, Dr. George Norton was made the fall guy and simply transferred to another Ministry with all his benefits intact. The Ministry and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) were again in the news in connection with the purchase of drugs valued at more than one billion dollars in violation of the Procurement Act…”
The accounting firm also expressed concern about the apparent rise in issues of corruption in the regions such as Region Six where there were nine cases where the Bid price was exactly the same as the Contractor’s estimate even though the estimates are not available to any bidder. And in Region Eight, the Audit Office found that one officer had set up a front company to make supplies to the Region’s School Feeding Programme while in Region Two, the accounting rules were twisted to make capital expenditure out of the current allocation.
Ram and McRae also reminded of a news item that was carried by this publication a few weeks ago, highlighting the issue of a contractor who was paid a significant sum of money on a contract that had hardly begun. That contractor was also the beneficiary of a similar arrangement in another Region.
Considering the aforementioned, the accounting firm said that the fight against poverty and for development goes hand in hand with the fight against corruption since corruption favours individuals with money and connections and those who in one way or the other support the winning Party.
It stressed that corruption distorts the allocation of economic benefits, deter foreign investment, lower economic growth, bring about a loss of tax revenue, lower the quality of public infrastructure and also affect the composition of government expenditure.
Ram and McRae said that the Government has a long way to go if it intends to deliver on the commitment to stamp out corruption.
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