Opinion: Stemming corruption in Guyana

Opinion: Stemming corruption in Guyana

 Apr 06, 2018  Editorial – Kaieteur News

Corruption became a culture in Guyana under the last administration. Its prevalence is evident in almost all state agencies and government departments. It is difficult to change the culture of any country which is embedded in the psyche of people, but the culture of corruption is the result of greed, and corrupt behaviour is determined by the relative strengths or weaknesses of institutions.

In order to reduce corruption in Guyana, the government must take extreme measures against offenders by sending them to jail. This will send a clear message that corruption would not be tolerated.    

Rich and powerful people in other countries have spent time in jail for corruption.

In Nigeria, almost every day someone is prosecuted for corruption and sent to jail if convicted, but nothing seems to change because there are too many of them. Even though Guyana is different from Nigeria in that it is a smaller country, with a much smaller population and its institutions are also smaller which make them more manageable, no one has been jailed so far.

Between 2000 and 2015, corruption has wreaked havoc on the country, thus making Guyana the second most corrupt nation in the Caribbean, after Haiti. It is estimated that corruption cost the taxpayers about G$520 billion in procurement fraud, which amounts to roughly G$35 billion annually. However, several international experts have claimed that the number is much higher, given the more than one trillion dollars in contracts awarded to friends and relatives of members of the then administrators.

Highlighting the effects of corruption, former UN Secretary, Ban Ki-moon said: When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of the education, health care and other essential services.”

Over the years, governments here have enacted laws to curb corruption, but they have been weak and ineffective. Any law or strategy to tackle corruption cannot be effective without a combination of civic and criminal actions. It means that corrupt officials will be prosecuted and the stolen money or property confiscated and returned to the state.

Jailing corrupt officials and removing the financial incentive will make them think twice of being corrupt. This invariably will help to change the culture of corruption in the country.

Recently, the Deputy Director of Guyana’s State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer told the nation that his agency has 25 solid cases to prosecute officials of the previous government who have acquired properties and money unlawfully by using their then privileged positions. He explained that the State Asset Recovery Act provides for all stolen properties to be returned to the state if there is cogent evidence to satisfy the court that the property is the proceeds of unlawful conduct of a public official.

According to Heath-Retemyer, a retired Major of the Guyana Defence Force, the Act is designed to stem the tide of corruption while at the same time return all recovered stolen property to the state or demand adequate compensation if the property is damaged beyond repair. It is hoped that the enactment of the State Asset Recovery Act would lead to a reduction of corruption. He stated that SARA is currently working with other state agencies to retrieve properties and land purchased by officials in the last government at below market value.

Despite being accused of a witch-hunt by the PPP, Heath-Retemyer made it quite clear that no one is above the law, and that there is no protection for anyone involved in corrupt acts in this or the previous government.

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Comments

  • panbrowne  On April 8, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    In the example of comparison with Nigeria let me remind you that size matters. Guyana’s population is small so corruption can be curbed if not completely eradicated

    • Mark  On April 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm

      I respectfully disagree with your statement. Activists like Freddie Kissoon, Chris Ram, Nigel Hinds and Mark Benschop have made themselves targets for many years because of their activism. Freddie Kissoon even recently penned an article how his family feared for their lives if he was to publish a story involving labour violations at a very known business in Guyana.

      Even on this website, online trolls working for Exxon-Mobil and likely the government have monitored comments regarding the flaws of the oil contract. Those trolls have resorted to name-calling, flame-wars and other online tactics to censor dissent such as calculating the oil exports!

      If I can’t even provide an estimate of oil exports for my fellow Guyanese without some oil company or government shill trolling me, then this is indeed signs of corruption.

  • Ali...  On April 8, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    “Corruption became a culture in Guyana under the last administration.”

    Wrong.

    Corruption has always been a culture in Guyanese governments. Nothing will change anytime soon.

  • LA  On April 8, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    OUR FORMER NEIGHBOURING PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL IS JAILED 12 YEARS FOR CORRUPTION. WHEN CAN SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN IN OUR HOMELAND?

  • guyaneseonline  On April 10, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Two Corruption Articles in Demerara Waves

    Corrupt Guyanese law enforcers must be jailed- British envoy TO READ
    DETAILS, CLICK HERE https://goo.gl/RkaTNb

    Corruption in government circles has been reduced- Attorney General reacts to US report
    TO READ DETAILS, PLEASE CLICK https://goo.gl/r4ZbEn

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