Mar 01, 2021 News
Kaieteur News- After years of being absent from the political forefront and seldom making public commentary, former Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, is now lambasting the current members of the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) for its malpractices, more specifically, the abuse of public funds. This specifically relates to Commissioners who sought to grant themselves and ERC staff, an excessive Christmas bonus of $150,000 and $100,000 respectively which its Chairman, Reverend John Smith, claimed was for COVID-19 relief.
In a letter published in yesterday’s edition of this newspaper, Hinds expressed great dissatisfaction with the Commission that receives a significant yearly allocation of funds to promote ethnic harmony and security in Guyana. “I write this letter disclosing my difference, disagreement, disappointment and dissatisfaction with our country’s ERC, with much reluctance,” Hinds said, adding that he has refrained from commentary on the Commission’s unjust spending which was recently highlighted by Commissioner, Haji Roshan Khan and its conduct during the harrowing five-month elections saga.
The former Prime Minister said that he has been sympathetic to Khan’s complaints in the public domain on the ERC’s unjust spending and posited that it is “at minimum, a great abuse of privilege”. Further, he maintained that if the Commissioners who granted themselves the excessive $150,000 bonus were ordinary citizens, of no great respect, the perception would have been that they are guilty of converting the ERC’s allocations to their benefit.
He also denounced Reverend Smith’s explanation that the bonus was COVID-19 relief.
In a response to Commissioner Khan’s public condemnation of the Christmas bonus, Chairman Smith had sought to justify the allocation, saying that at a statutory meeting on November 26, last year, the granting of the sums for the Commissioners and staff was determined by a majority vote.
The Chairman had claimed that during the meeting the Commissioners voted by the majority on several measures, given that funds were available, adding that it is customary that at year-end, an honorarium is given which is an ex-gratia payment and “in this case was for COVID-19 relief.” However, the meeting’s minutes which were seen by this publication made no reference to COVID-19 relief.
In the minutes, it is recorded that Commissioner [Ruth] Howard advanced a motion to pay an honorarium to all Commissioners and staff in the sum of $150,000 and $100,000 respectively, “as a customary practice of the Commission.” The motion was seconded by Commissioner [Barrington] Braithwaite and it was collectively proposed that Commissioners and staff will be paid the honorarium as a customary practice depending on the availability of funds. This paper also learned that two Commissioners, Deodat Persaud and Khan, were th
e only Commissioners to refrain from accepting the money.
Since there was no mention of COVID-19 relief, Smith’s justification has been left contradicted and tainted.
In the past two weeks, Kaieteur News has highlighted multiple instances of value leakage of taxpayer dollars occurring within the ERC. Of the many things uncovered were the aforementioned excessive Christmas bonus which is being heavily criticized by many and the fact that the ERC has received almost a billion dollars in just seven years with little accountability.
Former Prime Minister Hinds is one of the many senior figures in this country that are dissatisfied with the current ERC and believes that it is inadequately exercising its mandate.
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