Thursday, January 22, 2009

Longing for the day of transparency and accountability

Kaieteur News Letter to the Editor, Thursday 22 January 2009

Longing for the day of transparency and accountability
January 22, 2009 | By knews |
Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
When the PNC asked that the forensic audit being conducted on Customs
officers be extended to senior Government officials, and the President
retaliated by instructing all MPs to declare their assets in two weeks or
face the courts, the President continued to expose himself as a vindictive
and petty leader who is not deserving of the high office of President of
I hold no brief for the PNCR, but since the PNCR is the main Parliamentary
Opposition, then it has a right and responsibility to make sensible and
appropriate calls. this call for a forensic audit of senior Government
officials - long overdue - should have been met with open arms and a
positive response, not retaliation.
In 1999, President Jagdeo told a gathering in Florida that when he returned
home, he was going to push for legislation to be passed to deal with corrupt
Customs officers. It meant that, at least since 1999, the President was
aware of corruption among Customs officers, yet it took him nine years (in
2008) to make a move.
And when he did, he employed an unusual means to deal with corruption: He
hired a foreign firm to execute polygraph tests of CANU officers. Nine
officers failed and were called into the President's office to explain why
they failed. Because he was not satisfied with their answers, he fired the
nine. No court case! No sense that justice was done and seen to be done in a
court of law!
Before the tests were even started, many questioned the exercise as a means
of rooting out corruption, given that the laws of the land, not polygraph
tests, should take precedence. But the President insisted that the tests
will be done, and he intended to have it extended to cover all other areas
of Government. Maybe if he had followed through on his pledge to have
polygraph testing done in all ministries, departments and agencies, we won't
have need for the PNCR's call and his now unwise retaliation.
Still, how does he explain threatening MPs with court action if they fail to
declare their assets, but decides that CANU officers undergo polygraph tests
for corruption when they should have faced the court? Is he the final
arbiter on who is guilty and who should be punished?
It is also ironic that when the PNCR called for senior Government officials
to be audited, the first person to respond, surprisingly, was PPP General
Secretary, Mr. Donald Ramotar, who said this was not necessary since the
Integrity Commission was there to determine the assets of such officials.
End of story? Not quite! Now we have the President jumping into the fray
with his own demand and accompanying deadline.
The problem I am having with the President's involvement here, besides
appearing retaliatory as usual, is whether he has not usurped the role of
the Integrity Commission when he issued a deadline for MPs to declare their
assets. Where in the Constitution does it state that the President can issue
such an order when the constitutionally established Integrity Commission is
there for such a purpose?
I will continue to write letters calling the President out on actions that
raise red flags, and demand that all concerned be aware and take appropriate
legal responses before the nation finds itself locked in a battle between
its constitutional rights and the President's abuse of his authority and
office. And I think this is where we are heading, given what I am
Meanwhile, on a related subject, I have no idea what has been the final
outcome of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee's deliberations and debate
on the Auditor-General's 2007 Report that had some glaring financial
irregularities, including one for (GY) $11M to the Home Affairs Ministry in
2003 for guns and ammunition, and which guns and ammunition were never
physically accounted for.
And the country still waits for the President's decision on what he will do
with the Auditor-General's report on the Fidelity probe, which has stern
recommendations from the AG that charges be brought against certain key
players involved in the scam. The President is giving MPs two weeks to
declare their assets, but he is taking all the time in the world to make a
decision on what to do with the Fidelity report gathering dust on his desk.
Spare us the hypocrisy, sir!
My final question relates to the role of the House Speaker in swearing in
MPs. Doesn't the House Speaker have the responsibility for ensuring all
incoming MPs be properly vetted before being sworn in? I don't know how the
process works, but logic dictates that, as part of the swearing in process,
all MPs had to submit to the House Speaker (or Clerk of the National
Assembly) some kind of document from the Integrity Commission showing their
assets were declared and they were, therefore, approved for swearing in.
I don't know if it will happen, but I really want to see the President order
the GRA, with strong support from law enforcement, to investigate all
businesses, to determine their sources of financing and tax status, and have
the same done on owners of new houses and cars. This notion of new
businesses, new houses and new cars are signs of socioeconomic development
that need to be dealt with openly or else there will always exist a belief
that corruption is being facilitated.
I also don't know when it will happen, but I pray for the day when we have a
transparent and accountable Government that respects the law and the people
of Guyana!
Emile Mervin

No comments: