Does the govt really want to pass the anti-money laundering Bill?

Does the govt really want to pass the anti-money laundering Bill?


Parliament Buildings – Guyana

The gathering outside the National Assembly yesterday afternoon (Feb 10)  is symbolic of the state of the local politics. Two years ago when the parliamentary opposition voted to slash the budget for National Communications Network and the Government Information Agency the staff of these entities mounted protests along Brickdam along the route leading to the National Assembly. From the placards one would have expected that these people were all about to lose their jobs.

That was only the beginning. The government then expanded on the protest; it took its campaign to the airwaves via radio and television. By the time that campaign ended many had expected to see GINA and NCN being shut down. It was a case of overkill.  Two years later, GINA and NCN have not ceased operation. In fact for two years they operated on a single Guyana dollar, each. No staff member lost his or her job and pretty soon staff from those two entities had been reduced to objects of ridicule. People accused them of grandstanding and of exaggerating a situation.

Yesterday (Feb 10), was another interesting time when it came to protests. Obviously mobilised by the government, these people bore placards that sought to beseech the parliamentary opposition to vote for the passage of the anti-money laundering Bill. Of course, they argued that with Guyana being blacklisted its economic future would be bleak. Businesses would collapse and Guyanese would suffer in the worst possible way.

But by the end of the day the Bill was not debated and the protesters might have conducted an exercise in futility. The Bill was never presented for the vote on Monday. There are special conditions for Bills to be submitted to the National Assembly. Up to Monday the Bill was still being discussed and amendments made.

By the time the Bill is ready for the House it is likely that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force would have met. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday. Assuming that the Bill is not tendered by then, what would that protest have to do with the parliamentary opposition?

Of interest is the fact that all this idea of protest over the anti-money laundering Bill need not have happened. One of the parliamentary opposition, the Alliance For Change, simply asked for the Public Procurement Commission as a trade off. The government is refusing.
Surely the government does want the anti-money laundering Bill.

The Public Procurement Commission would regulate the contractors who do slipshod work and are more concerned with raiding the public treasury.

The main opposition party recognised that the government is bent on control and so wanted the Finance Minister to be removed from the control of the Finance Intelligence Unit. With such power the Minister, as one of his colleagues once did, arrested and locked up a school teacher and a Muslim scholar on the ground that the man was a terrorist.

The visiting scholar was merely a man who kept coming as a guest lecturer but the Minister of Home Affairs had power. With such power the Finance Minister could determine who is a money launderer without reason.

The members of A Partnership For National Unity wants a dilution of the Minister’s power. If the government was serious about the impact blacklisting would have on Guyana it would have granted some concessions. The easiest concession would have been to create the Public Procurement Commission.

Let us assume that it does not want to negotiate with the AFC because two of its former Central Committee members, one of whom was a Cabinet member, is now in the AFC camp, why not simply agree to a dilution of the Minister’s power in the Bill?

It must be that things are not what they seem; that perhaps the people who are screaming the loudest do not want the Bill to pass.

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  • Abert  On 02/19/2014 at 3:55 am

    Some 30 years ago one of my responsibility was to over look the function of what was called “purchasing and contracts.” In the U.S. this is a much more sophisticated and controlled operation, yet it is not practical to avoid political influences in the awarding of contracts. For one thing some of the influential members of the contract selection committee might have been place there by the politicians (Governor, Mayor etc) and thus do their best to award contracts to those who made donations to a particular political figure. Some contracts are of such that only the elected official get to decide who gets them. Federal/State auditors are usually the officials involved in ensuring compliance of contracts by contractors. Usually they have power to stop payments, or even initiate legal proceedings for the return of funds, due to non-compliance. I may be wrong but I don’t see legislation to stop money laundering in Guyana to be very effective. Corruption is too entrenched and widespread.

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