Georgetown, Guyana – (May 29, 2016) President David Granger, last evening, said that while graft is prevalent in several sectors of society, the Government together with the public must commit to excising it and to ensuring that transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of service. The President made these comments in his address at the launch of the book, “Governance, Transparency and Accountability,” a series of articles that have been written and published in a book by former Auditor-General Dr. Anand Goolsarran, at the Pegasus Hotel.
He noted while there may be instances of official graft, Government workers are not the only “villains”, as corruption can be found within the private sector, in offshore banks and in tax havens. As such, a concerted effort by all is needed to tackle the scourge.
“The public must play its part. The international community must play its part to change public attitudes towards corruption and to allow for greater transparency and accountability. Efforts of Government in improving accountability and transparency will be frustrated unless these partners play their part… Corruption must therefore be confronted. This task will not be easy. Corruption is resilient and highly resistant to efforts of eradication. Its roots have penetrated deep into the sub-soil of national life. It must be uprooted if Guyanese are to have a chance at the ‘good life’,” President Granger said.
The President also remarked that it is impossible for one corrupt person to thrive, noting that graft can only become widespread if there is a symbiotic relationship between different people or groups – an aspect that is not often analysed.
“Some people describe corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, but I think that there should be a more plastic interpretation. I do believe that the real sources of corruption are evident in other crimes; bribery, contraband smuggling, cronyism, fraud, graft, nepotism. These are all aspects of the monster of corruption. These crimes can escape detection because of the lack of transparency and that is why people like opaque transactions because it conceals corruption. They can go unpunished because of a lack of accountability and they can flourish because of weak governance. It is my view that corruption in Guyana is more widespread outside of government,” he said.
Further, he noted, crimes of tax evasion, narcotics trafficking, trafficking in persons, money laundering, all contribute to corruption and hinder development.
“We accept that corruption is corrosive because it weakens the enforcement of the law. It weakens our democratic values. It weakens our accountability and transparency. It weakens public trust in government and the institutions of government… Corruption largely discriminates against the poor and it favours the rich. It removes resources from the Government or from agencies, which should be directed towards improving the quality of life and what should be a public good is directed to private gain. The practice of good governance, transparency and accountability are more than the antidote for Government”, he said.
“They are also a remedy for the disease of corruption within the private sector, in professional organisations, in civil society and also in international organisations. It will be hypocritical to think that corruption is a crime only a few cops or revenue clerks, who stretch out their hands for bribes. Bribery is a crime indeed and it must be prevented. It must be punished but two big questions remain, who really can afford to pay the bribes and where do proceeds of bribery and corruption go?” the President said.
The Head of State also opined that analyses of corruption often overlooked the real architects of roguery.
“Corruption studies tend to ignore the seminal role of the real rogues; the people who construct vessels for the sole purpose of smuggling cheap fuel into this country, those who conspire to import and export illegal drugs and who smuggle gold and diamonds out of the country to avoid paying royalties across the borders and into unmonitored airstrips and throughout numerous creeks and rivers… Many studies tend to ignore the ‘back-trackers’, who evade the payment of duties; the tax dodgers, who do not pay value added tax and NIS contributions. Studies also tend to ignore the foreign destinations of dirty money. The lords of corruption do not stack their millions in mattresses. There are many eyebrow-raising, no questions asked havens for dirty money,” he said.
The Government of Guyana is, therefore, committed to excising corruption, improving transparency and instituting greater accountability, all premised on the pillar of strong institutions, he said.
“The independence and integrity of institutions must be strengthened to prevent and combat corruption. The Government has already passed legislation assuring the financial independence of the National Assembly and the Judiciary, important branches of the state alongside the executive. We must now pay attention to important institutions that exercise oversight of the Government… The Public Service Commission; we must have an ‘unbribable’ public service and the persons in that office must, therefore, be above reproach themselves; the Public Procurement Commission, the Integrity Commission, the Guyana Elections Commission, Office of the Auditor General, Office of the Ombudsman, the Police Complaints Authority,” the President said.
President Granger also pointed out that while these institutions are in place for oversight of the Government there is no structure in place for the other sectors. Therefore, the public must be the watchdogs in these sectors.
“We have many institutions we need to preserve but many of those are concerned with the Government. We also need the support of the private sector to remove corruption in the private sector among businessmen, among smugglers, traffickers, gunrunners, money launderers. Criticising the government does not ensure that there will be an absence of corruption,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan said that the book is a memoir, which will be useful to the future generations.
President of the Transparency International (Guyana) Incorporated, Dr. Troy Thomas, echoed the President’s sentiments about the wide spread of corruption and reiterated that the onus is on every citizen to ensure that they participate in the process of accountability.
In addition, Head of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU), Dr. Clive Thomas, described the book as a “collection of gems.” He said that the Dr. Goolsarran’s extensive knowledge and experience can now be shared through the book.
The book, which features approximately 100 articles written by Dr. Goolsarran for the Stabroek News’ Accountability Watch column, deals with various topics. These include the prorogation of the National Assembly by the former administration, the absence of local democracy through Local Government Elections for over two decades, the Forensic audits, and others.