By Leonard Gildarie
I am a stickler for procedures. It sets out the official way for carrying out duties in work places. If a fraud is committed and the police are called in, the first thing they zero in on are the procedures. After that, the focus would be on who were involved and what roles they would have played.
In essence, if five persons have access to a room where a safe is located where the money goes missing, then those five persons are the ones who will be questioned.
So as a country about to start oil production, we should ensure that our systems work. That we know who are the ones who should be held responsible.
It is very dangerous to allow a few representatives in public offices or executives on state boards to believe that they have a free run on the resources of this country without any kind of repercussions if anything goes wrong.
One of the areas that has me peeved is the Integrity Commission and its work.
We had legal people working long hours to put together legislation aimed at ensuring that politicians who are entering office declare their assets. The intention is to compare their assets after to ensure they all have come from legal sources.
Here is the thing…we spend tens of millions annually to have these regulatory monitoring bodies operating, but they are not being respected.
The Integrity Commission is one of them that will be testimony of our failure to ensure procedures work.
It is absolutely unacceptable that our politicians and heads of state corporations and boards would refuse to submit their declarations.
It appears to be no big deal and Guyana continues its merry way onwards.
The problem now is that as we enter first oil, the debate has been centering on our procedures to ensure that our interests are protected.
If we are getting it so wrong here, it is frightening to think what happens after we start collecting those billions from oil and gas.
This situation has to be addressed pronto. We don’t want excuses. The Integrity Commission has powers.
There were so many things happening in the past few weeks that we should touch on.
Kaieteur News reported on a Chinese restaurant in Diamond which applied for permits from the Central Housing and Planning Authority. The owners reportedly converted dwelling premises and started operating without permits.
After CH&PA turned them down, the local Neighbourhood Democratic Council informed the owners to cease operations. The language of the cease order cannot be ambiguous.
Imagine, since last year, the restaurant continued operating. Neighbours objected to the presence of the restaurant next door to their homes, an area that had been zoned to allow no businesses.
This year, CH&PA publicly said it had no intention to issue permits for the business in that location.
The restaurant closed in January and defiantly opened up back again a few weeks ago.
Enforcement officers of CH&PA who reportedly visited were undercover when they purchased some food. After identifying themselves, a Chinese worker was abusive to them.
We are not against any businesses operating in Guyana. We welcome all and sundry to beautiful Guyana. We only ask that you toe the line.
I am not aware if the Chinese owners have been granted citizenship…stranger things have happened…but it would not matter. You can’t open a shop and start operating here without the procedures being followed. We can’t go to another country and do that.
We have thousands of persons who migrated here… from Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba and Haiti…in the last year or so. Things are happening.
We have to be careful. We have worked hard. We have suffered as a people.
The lands belong to us. The resources that lie there…timber, gold, diamond, rare earth, bauxite, manganese, fish and now oil…belong to us.
Guyana would have been heartened this past week, learning of Minister Winston Felix, who has charge of Citizenship, visiting Cuba to speak with the authorities about the need for more control. Reading between the lines, it is clear that Guyana is worried.
Guyana has a no visa-on-arrival arrangement with Cuba.
Cubans have been coming here annually to shop, especially at the Chinese stores in the city. It has spinoffs. However, there have been indications of an increasing number of Cubans staying.
Guyana is limited in its capacity to monitor the borders. The police, and its Immigration arm, simply don’t have the capacity to properly monitor and enforce.
The government has established a task force for Venezuela migrants.
Guess what? We have in the last two years taken in 6,000 Venezuelan migrants.
We see fears expressed about the background of the migrants.
We are a country whose people migrated to all over the world, including Venezuela in the 80s. We cannot turn our backs on them in this time of need. However, not taking steps to attempt to control the situation is not an option. We are a mere 700,000 in terms of population.
We are losing an average of 4,500 persons to the US as permanent residents annually, and we really don’t know how many elsewhere.
With oil, the madness and attention would be focused on other things. We need the procedures in place.
It does not help when we hear stories of persons receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to process work permits and citizenships for foreigners. It is big business.
We have to pay close attention.
There is one more thing that has me heartened. The police force must be lauded. There are bad eggs in the police force. But the force is on a massive campaign to overhaul its tarnished image.
The force has been going countrywide, into markets, bus parks, schools and communities, to talk to residents about crime, and a more collaborative role of the stakeholders.
I am stopped once in a while now by police conducting routine controls and there is an air of respect. We are moving in the right direction.
We have to ensure that our landlines at the police stations work. We have to continuously send our ranks to participate in customer service training.
So yes, we have some good things happening, but we are still not yet out of the woods.
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