Any person or group or agency that thinks it knows the extent of corruption in this country has to admit to a single reality: it knows nothing as to magnitude or damage done.
Everyone – whether on the take or looking on suspiciously from the outside – would agree that it is significant. But none is really familiar as to how bad things really are from the billions of dollars misappropriated. And nobody has any clue as to how much of a difference those swindled funds could have made.
Corrupt practices have a certain lifespan. The tip of the iceberg is exposed publicly for a sharp moment. There is social media ranting; bureaucratic hedging; calls for some kind of audit; political finger pointing (or denying); and then nothing.
It is the shortest of public lifespans. The involved principals breathe easier; storm weathered. Then it is the next reward, the next set of crooked people, and the next batch of sleazy outpourings for public attention. The key to all of this is threefold: nobody is punished; no systems are improved; and the stolen dollars keep haemorrhaging.
When all added up, it is the old story of taxpayer money not wisely spent, properly accounted for, given a damn about. And it is, also, about the thieves (political, public and private) who grow richer from countless white-collar banditry. Meanwhile, the small man and woman – strapped, sinking, and sorrowful -are beaten deeper into the ground, through one betrayal after another, by those sworn to do what is fair and right. Except that it isn’t.
As an example, there was a recent exposé concerning printing and involving a state entity. The wise men went to work, through all these fallback options and unpersuasive defences about quantity and quality and costing, that would not hold water before any real lengthy, probing scrutiny. Whether about printing, or as small as badges, or anything resembling procurement, there is a science in place.
It is one long studied, long lived, long concealed, and long enriching. The old (now opposition) bureaucratic people are not talking: they know nothing. And in the ways of wise populations and strict governments, they mentor the newcomers (no saints themselves) as to the way things work. How to profit. How to get by with the same programme. How to elude the sleuths that occasionally smell that something is a little off.
Think of this: three different letterheads do not necessarily mean three different companies bidding on the same product or for the same project. The wisdom of officials learned in how to avoid the taint of single sourcing. The records are there; who can question? What is not able to stand up to the usual superficial inquiry?
Add these up and the toll is one unending national disaster. The slick detective work (by bidders and procurers, public and private) put into place for annual educational paper products, massive construction works, and other large-scale supplies, such as medicines, boots, and uniforms. That is gold. That is oil. It has been so for the men and women in public offices and private businesses. Everybody is well versed as to how the game is played.
The foreigners are no slouches at this kind of gamesmanship. The word is, that under diplomatic cover, huge amounts of stores are brought into the country in containers, exempt from scrutiny and duty. It is a wonderful life for those stores offering duty-free goods to the public at prices that squeeze Guyanese businesses out of the competition. What kind of money funds these activities? Is there any diplomatic assistance? Where is the accountability to the Guyanese people?
The opposition can’t speak, it was so dirty; the government is up to its neck; and the media (save for a couple) have biases that cripple. This much needs no exposure: the more Guyanese think they know about corruption; the less they know of how tragic and consequential corruption really is in this country.
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