Nov 28, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The Alliance For Change (AFC) believes that officials who are found guilty of mismanaging State funds should be sent to jail.
Khemraj Ramjattan, the party’s leader, gave this position on Friday during a media engagement. While responding to a question from this newspaper he explained that amendments were made to the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act to clearly outline penalties, including hefty fines and imprisonment for persons found guilty of mishandling state funds.
As such, he noted, “Once there is egregious corruption by public officials or state officials or even Ministers, why not? We have indicated that there should be fines and imprisonment terms and they are already in the law.”
The former Minister of Public Security who is also an Attorney-at-Law was then asked to say why these measures are not being instituted to ensure such persons are punished. According to him, witnesses in such matters hardly present themselves and sometimes when they do, they change their statements.
“I was recently doing a fraud matter for a private company and what happens is the witnesses don’t turn up and you get, sometimes the witnesses change their story when you compel them to come to Court…and then the case gets fouled up as a result,” he explained.
Ramjattan said that the Criminal Laws in Guyana set very high standards, leaving the burden on the prosecutor to prove these wrongdoings. “It is sometimes extraordinarily difficult and fraud is of course very very complex and complicated and especially if you don’t have the foundation, witness testimony, and so on – you really can’t prove it,” Ramjattan noted.
The Auditor General (AG) reports over the years have revealed rather troubling findings regarding the use of public funds which go unpunished. In many instances, there are over payments to contractors and failure to deliver goods on time, while no action is instituted to ensure there is no reoccurrence of same.
This concern was raised by a civil society group, Our Wealth Our Country (OWOC) which argued the need for laws to be implemented to ensure such acts are not swept under the proverbial rug.
In a statement to the press, OWOC said that the AG report and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have often uncovered “widespread irregularities, possible fraud, likely deliberate malfeasance, lack of accountability and apparent attempts to fleece the Guyanese taxpayers.” However, the group believes this is not the worst part. “The worst part is despite all the revelations of funds not being accounted for, nobody is going to jail and punished for failing to do their jobs,” they said.
The body reasoned that Guyana is a country where most of the population is poor. While persons struggle daily to make ends meet, successive governments continue to fail to ensure that goods and services costing billions are delivered. Concluding that such practices are simply unacceptable OWOC noted, “We call on both the PPP and PNC to pass new legislation or enforce current provisions that allow for utmost punishment on those responsible for this state of affairs. No excuse can justify what’s happening.”
From the AG’s most recent report, published based on an assessment of the government’s 2021 expenditure, Kaieteur News highlighted that: ‘Hundreds of millions unaccounted for under flood relief programme’ and ‘New GPC gets over $7B in contracts from PPP Government but failed to deliver drugs worth over $478M’. It was also reported that ‘Public Works Ministry yet to receive $12.4M telephone network system six years after supplier paid in full’. In the case of the drugs still to be delivered, the watchdog body argued proper explanations must be provided since the monies have already been paid over.
Meanwhile, as it regards the telephone network system still to be received as well, that was paid for since the Coalition’s tenure, OWOC complained that the same story of lack of accountability is repeating itself under a different government. As such, the civil society group explained, “Our nation cannot afford to be buffeted by the PPP and PNC who seem to take turns at messing with public funds. OWOC calls on both the PPP and PNC to take all measures to put an end to this broken record of lack of accountability for billions of dollars.”
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