Apr 22, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Do we need an Integrity Commission? The one that we have, is it functioning as an Integrity Commission should? If it does, then how can it be improved? If it doesn’t fulfill what was envisioned, then what to do about it? We will now make an attempt to answer and address each one of those hard, searching questions.
We at this publication say it most unequivocally: we need an Integrity Commission. There can be no debating about that, or distancing from the crucial presence of such a body. It is needed because of what we have as a major part of our political and professional public service culture, the culture of sleaze perfected by scoundrels, who take advantage of the trust placed in them, to gouge and gut the public treasury in many different ways. It is how public finances are managed (more on that another time). It is how basic services, billion-dollar projects and procurement relationships are delivered and overseen. It always boils down to the standard and consistency of the ethics displayed by politicians and public servants in the exercise of their heavy responsibilities.
Some have responded fully to what the Commission demands; others have not, which is where the problem resides. This involves many important responsibilities in the practices manifested in a host of areas covering from the high parliamentary to the regular day to day, and everything in between. Men and women must (not merely need to be) manifest a deep immaculacy in how they comport themselves. They have not to a worrying extent, which is what the most recent U.S. State Department Report noted (KN April 1), which confirmed the fears of a significant number of Guyanese about a number of sensitive places in Guyana, of which the Integrity Commission is one.
But we did not need a State Department report to confirm our convictions, which is the answer we supply for our second question: Guyana’s Integrity Commission, to a discomforting degree, is not functioning as it should. Guyanese that fall within its purview have repeatedly and insultingly done more than give the Commission an upraised middle finger. Some Guyanese political presences and senior public servants have executed the equivalent of dropping their pants and responding with a full mooning in the face of the Commission. It is take that, and be done. The Integrity Commission has been mostly content to be done and gone, with little more than futile protestations of non-cooperation and non-compliance. That will not get the job of any self-respecting Integrity Commission anywhere done in an effective and satisfactory manner. It has to do more, and in ways that brook no pushback.
Our third question was: given where it is, can it be improved? We think so, and for the simplest of reasons: we need one that is working well; because if we don’t have that, then we might as well stop talking about clean stewardship and moral and ethical leadership. We might as well resign ourselves to the barbarians running amok inside this country, and the lunatics running the nationwide asylum. But that we cannot subscribe to, will never endorse, given the calibre of people we have had in the last half century and counting in charge of political and bureaucratic affairs. They must be watched, they must be policed and closely.
The Integrity Commission can be improved, because the groundwork and structure have been erected on which it can make some meaningful strides. It has to have the right people, those who will not be pushed around or be a party to stonewalling and obfuscating. The strength and will must be there to probe and do some hard pushing back of their own. The mindset and operations of the Integrity Commission leaders have to be: deliver or be dealt with in no uncertain terms, with the full scope of existing laws to be brought to bear. We also believe that existing laws should be enhanced to give the Commission more teeth, through more powers. It must censure, it must haul before the courts, it must be punitive; and if some have to be exposed and embarrassed, then let that be the price of non-compliance. It must maximise what is currently available within its power to bring all violators (no exceptions) to book. It must go beyond publicising, warning and reminding. The Integrity Commission must move to the courts for that maximum 12-month sentence to be handed down to those playing games with the fulfillment of its work. Only when it does so, will there be an Integrity Commission worth the name, pulling its weight and fulfilling its mandate.
The last question we raised above was: if it continues to fall short significantly, then what should be done with it? If the political will and political honesty are not there to give the Integrity Commission the legal tools and the procedural powers with which it must be armed, then there is only one option left. Pull the plug on it, disband it and stop making a fool of Guyanese who look upon it to be sentinel and security against the local political and professional predators constantly coming up with ways to cheat the system, and cheat the taxpayers. We hate to say that, but if our leaders and Integrity Commission people cannot get the job done right, then move on and be rid of it. We sincerely hope that matters don’t conclude there.
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