Thursday, January 15, 2009

Let the scrutinizing of assets begin at the top

Kaieteur News letter to the Editor, Saturday 10 January 2009

Let the scrutinizing of assets begin at the top
January 10, 2009 | By knews |

Dear Editor,
The article of Thursday January 8, 2009; captioned "Customs Officers assets
to be scrutinized - President", conjures up, once again, a clearly
paradoxical and lopsided development which creates an opportunity for a
renewed call by Guyanese to demand that the business of scrutinizing assets
extends to Senior Government functionaries.
It is obvious that President Jagdeo's decision to scrutinize the assets of
Customs Officers stemmed as a result of the Polar Beer scam regarding
Fidelity Investment and Kong Inc, in which, it is reported that, Polar Beers
imported in Guyana, through this company, were registered as soft drinks in
order to defraud the government of revenue, a case in which several Customs
Officers are implicated.
It is critical that none of us engage in those behaviors that will rape our
country of needed revenue, since such behaviours are likely to negatively
impact on the lives of our citizens, particularly the poor, children, and
the elderly. However, the President's recent decision to scrutinize assets
of Customs Officers should not only be limited to those officers but must be
extended to all senior government functionaries; including Ministers of the
It is important that if we are committed to "a cleaning house project" that
all suspected parties must be part of the process, too often we react with
these plastic surgery approaches which are limited in their effect, stymied
in their scope, and lack a truly comprehensive and holistic approach to
solving well entrenched problems. I am in support of the investigation of
any wrong doing but I also believe that these investigations must not be
seen as an attempt to create scapegoats, while the masterminds and "silver
collar criminals" are ignored or allowed to pursue their hidden agendas
undisturbed. The President must demonstrate to the Guyanese people that he
is committed to rake out corruption from even within the bosom of his
government. At the time of the "stone scam" within the Ministry of Works and
Hydraulics, and of which the then Minister was identified as the main
mastermind, Guyanese called for an intensive investigation, what did we get;
the Minister involved in the allegation remained on the job until he
resigned. Then there was the scam at the Legal Affairs Ministry, which saw
the then, Permanent Secretary, being deeply implicated in the matter which
also involved hundreds of thousands of dollars, what happened? There are
many other instances of fraud allegedly committed by senior government
functionaries, but we never hear the President call for the assets of his
allies to be scrutinized, and the public must be concerned about these
developments. According to the Constitution "no one is above the law".
It is believed that many of these fraud cases do not start and stop with
those involved in the actual fraudulent transactions; which might be
detected at the most basic level, but that they have a deeper connection to
some of the most well connected, who see themselves as immune or absolved
from investigations because of their affiliations. So, I again call on the
President to demonstrate a truly non-partisan position on this matter and,
let the scrutinizing of assets begin at the top. There are claims of
Ministers owning millions of dollars of assets soon after their elevation to
their current position. There are claims that comrades who were once riding
bicycle a year before they assumed Ministerial portfolio, and key government
posts have come to own three of four personal vehicles such as the coveted
"prado", and other name brand types.
There are also serious allegations out there which suggest that senior
government functionaries benefit from "drawbacks" connected to the tendering
process. So Mr. President, let it be known that I am all for investigation
of wrong doings but I believe that the Guyanese people will be better
satisfied if you demonstrate that unwavering commitment to a fair and
unbiased approach to end corruption. Good governance dictates that those put
in charge of public revenue, goods and services account to the people.
In the news item the President is quoted as saying that the AG's report,
regarding the Fidelity Investment Fraud, will be tabled in the National
Assembly for public scrutiny as soon as possible, according to him as early
as the next two or three sittings. I find the President's intent on making
such pronouncement in advance of the completion of the report quite
interesting, I am however, disappointed, and perplexed as to why he did not
act with such haste to ensure that the torture report, which has been
completed more than six months now, be tabled in the National Assembly for
You see Mr. Jagdeo, actions like these show clear inconsistencies in what
you say and how you address issues, for this reason ill motives can be
easily imputed for your actions. The complaint of citizens being tortured is
a serious human rights issue which strikes at the core of our pseudo
So I take this opportunity to reiterate my call for the torture report to be
laid in the public domain, in fact, it should be brought and entertained for
debate in the National Assembly before the AG's report on the alleged
Customs Fraud. And, let the chips lay where they fall.
A Blessed New Year to all.
Lurlene Nestor.

No comments: