The programme, “From Word to Word, is aired Mondays to Fridays on state-owned radio. It is narrated by Dr. Rovin Deodat, and is an educational programme that explains the origins, meaning and uses of words.
It so happened that the featured word for yesterday was “nepotism”. The word means “the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.”
In common political parlance, it means “jobs for the boys and girls” or for friends, family and cronies.”
According to Dr. Deodat, “nepotism” comes from the Italian root ‘nipote’, which means nephew and ‘nepotismo’ which refers to the practice of Italian Popes in the 17th century of privileges on their illegitimate children whom, for practical purposes, they referred to as their nephews.
The APNU+AFC had many ‘nephews’ within the government system. The former administration took care of not only its nephews but also its nieces, handing some of them top jobs within government Ministries.
The truth is now emerging about the level of nepotism, which was being practised over the past five years. And what is being revealed in the level of political patronage which friends and members of the APNU and AFC enjoyed within the state sector.
The Kaieteur News reported the new Minister of Local government as saying that there were 23 staff members of the former Minister’s Secretariat who were earning as much as, in total per month, $7.73M and that numbered amongst those persons were political figures associated with the APNU+AFC.
The APNU+AFC had come into office on a strong platform of railing against cronyism and corruption. It had pledged to bring an end to cronyism in government and to reduce waste and extravagance. In one of his first public comments, the head of the APNU+AFC Coalition, David Granger, had said that the time had come to bring an end to corruption, nepotism and squander mania.
Instead of removing nepotism, the APNU+AFC outclassed the undisputed champion when it came to packing the government system with political loyalists. It was also accused from its early days of issuing a contract, untendered and for the storage of medicines, to one of its cronies. The APNU was stacked with military veterans and a number of ex-army personnel, way past retirement, were manoeuvred into key government jobs, even though there were younger persons who could fill those positions.
One ministry had four public relations officers. And this, despite the fact that government had at its disposal, the Guyana Chronicle, the National Communications Network and the Department of Public Information, all of which are heavily bloated.
It is also being reported that an associate of the PNC/R leaders, enjoyed generous emoluments even though the individual spends a great deal of his time abroad. Yet he was paid a net salary of more than a half of a million dollars per month. His electricity, internet and telephone bills were all paid by the government. He enjoyed state-paid security at his home and was assigned a driver and a vehicle along with duty-free allowances and a healthy gratuity which amounts to more than one-fifth of his gross salary tax free.
The full extent of the nepotism is now being fully understood. One of the dangers of favouring friends, family and cronies is that the professionals get shunted aside. And as a consequence, the quality of the public service becomes compromised.
A number of the persons whose names appeared on the list of the APNU+AFC candidates were working already within the public service and public sector. By convention, these persons should have resigned. The principle behind this convention is that anyone who is contesting for political office cannot be expected to support the very government, which they are opposing in the government. And so the ethical thing for them to do was to resign prior to the elections.
Nepotism is not unique to the PNC/R but they took it to a higher level than was expected, especially considering their promise to end this practice.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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