>Encouraging Events, Disturbing Developments<
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – It is encouraging to learn that President Ali has committed to making the details of spending oil money public (KN February 14). Though I generally leave oil developments to other spaces, today I make an exception. His Excellency said – indeed, he has publicly committed – to sharing “how much money is earned, how much is spent, and on what it is spent.” All Guyana should welcome that promise, but which has to go a bit deeper to mean something and deliver what would be even more encouraging. The president and his government in telling Guyanese “how much is spent and on what it is spent” must be most transparent with the supporting details. He cannot be satisfied, and we should not be satisfied, with topline numbers and the identification of this or that area or project. President and government must furnish, by making available for public consumption, the fine print that goes with the appealing headlines, when the monies are spent, and what goes on with the projects selected. If it is that so many millions are going to be spent to enhance infrastructural works or improve another sector, then all that happens with those oil monies must be an open book. If that occurs, then there is the encouraging, which I hope is how it will be. If not, then it is President Ali pretending at openness and straightness, while being about the trickiness of the usual leadership six for a nine. May it not be this way.
The disturbing came early in the week, with the abrupt and unceremonious dismissal of Chief Works Officer, Geoffrey Vaughn. According to the media releases, Mr. Vaughn was there, and then he wasn’t; and without so much as the courtesy of ‘incompatibility’ or ‘professional corruption’ or ‘philosophical differences.’ Of course, if it was for skin colour or suspected political affiliation, no government is so foolish as to make that mistake publicly; not even one as unschooled and crude on the finer points of civilized behaviour as this one. It was goodbye and get going, there is the door. The harsh indignity of leave keys and all the state’s belongings and don’t bother to come back; the guards have their orders.
I find the now former Chief Works Officer a disturbing development for several reasons. In those senior positions held against his name, incompetence can only be covered up for so long; so, I rule that one out. Also, I do not recall his name being bandied about as one that was on the campaign trail for the now opposition; thus, the present automatic public service kiss of death. But there is something else that speaks about this former senior public servant, who suddenly became the wrong man in the wrong job with the wrong people. It is that Mr. Vaughn has served this country, at the Ministry of (Public) Works for some 15 years in one senior capacity following the other, and at higher and higher elevations. Now here is the spearhead of my thrust: 10 of those 15 years had to have been under the prior PPP government, and under a PPP minister. I am extremely doubtful that Mr. Vaughn would have lasted that long, if he was a misfit, a fool, or a scoundrel, leaker, and seller. That there is a problem now, when all these billions are in motion for public works projects, looks highly suspicious and I must say rather sinister in objective. With this latest development, I can only call this as I interpret. It is part of a now low level, sporadic, but no less ominous, purge of a certain kind of Guyanese out of the public service. Instead of the prior rush of numbers, there is currently quiet creep. It definitely gives me the creeps, and there is nothing quiet about it. It just can’t be; not with a high-profile official as Mr. Vaughn.
President Ali flourishes of chatter about ‘one’ this and ‘one’ that, which stirs. Then, there is this line of inexplicable ugliness.
(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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