Kaieteur News – Soon after the PPP/C came to office in 1992, a WPA leader exposed the fact that a private contractor, who did business with a certain Ministry, had transferred one of his motor vehicles into the name of the son of the Minister of that Ministry. The explanation proffered was that it was a legitimate sale.
Cheddi Jagan’s failure to take condign and swift action in this matter backfired on him. While he himself was incorruptible, corruption would later envelop his administration.
David Granger’s administration fell victim to a similar problem. A controversial contract was signed in the health sector and though Granger took steps to appoint a team to look into it, the report was so tame that it amounted to a slap on the wrist.
At present, there in an allegation in the public domain. This allegation is a litmus test of what can be expected of the Irfaan Ali administration when it comes to issues of conflict of interest and corruption.
A letter writer to another newspaper has alleged that there is a non-executive person, associated with the Guyana Office for Investment had been making grandiose promises to investors and encouraging them to do business with his or her private firm and had been ordering staff to provide details of the investors’ files.
This amounts to three serious allegations. The first is the making of promises by a person who is in no position to make such promises. The second is a conflict of interest and possible corruption by requesting that investors do business with his firm. The third allegation concerns abuse of authority of a non-executive member asking staff to disclose information. Mind you there are all allegations.
But there are serious enough to warrant the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce to undertake an investigation by an impartial panel. So far the GO-Invest has not made any official response to the allegations and unless they dismiss these allegations as being fictitious, only then can the Ministry decide not to have these charges investigated.
Recently, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Ms. Gail Teixeria, was reported as emphasising the importance of Guyana building institutional capacity to eliminate instances of bribery, underhand deals, fraud, and malpractice in government. The PPP/C government was said to be building capacity to combat corruption.
The PPP/C was in office for 23 years between 1992 and 2015. If in all those years it did not build that capacity why should anyone believe it will do so this time around?
But in as much as institutional capacity is important in fighting government corruption, there is a much simpler and shorter route to combat this malady. That solution is to set the right example by setting when it comes to allegations of corruption.
All allegations of corruption should be investigated. And if any of these allegations are found to be malicious, then the persons responsible for spreading such wicked allegations should be brought before the courts.
But once there is merit in any allegation, those responsible must face the consequences. They should face the consequences and be removed from their positions regardless of the friends which they may have in higher places or the influence which they wield.
The APNU+AFC promised in 2015 that they would address corruption under the PPP/C. Not one conviction was ever achieved for any act of corruption under the PPP/C. Instead all manner of ‘fancy’ fraud charges relating to the sale of public assets, were instituted and which have been discontinued.
And yet there was a preponderance of information in the public domain about what was going on under the PPP/C. There was information about the sale of certain licences. There was information about one person enjoying multiple legal retainers by government ministries and agencies even though the Attorney General is supposed to be the legal representative of the government.
The Irfaan Ali administration is now the subject of a series of allegations concerning the Guyana Office of Investment. These charges may or may not have merit but what is more important is the approach which is taken.
The allegations should be investigated by GO-Invest’s subject Ministry. An investigation should be launched into all three of the allegations and, so long as one is proven to have merit, then the appropriate course of action should be taken.
All eyes are now on the Ali administration to see how it will address this matter. If it is ignored, then the people of Guyana will know that when it comes to combating corruption the PPP/C’s talk about institutional capacity is just another blow-blow.
(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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