The current draft State Asset Recovery Bill 2016 (SARA Bill) is deeply flawed and inconsistent with many of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana. This was the view expressed by the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
In a statement on Wednesday (September 07, 2016), the PSC said the Bill “is not a good signal to investors who will require access to state resources such as land, licences, access rights etc. as the Bill provides opportunities for legitimate investors to be harassed and politically victimised.”
While noting that “all assets or resources belonging to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana that were unlawfully or criminally transferred to any beneficiary must be recovered and returned to the State,” the PSC said the current Bill is deeply flawed and inconsistent with many of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana.
The body said it will be making its objections known the Attorney General and to members of the Legislature.
“The Bill has been drafted from the perspective that the Government of Guyana does not know what it owns or what the State has lost over the years and as such it provides all-encompassing investigative and surveillance powers to the Director and Staff of the Agency to snoop around into private accounts and financial records of citizens to determine what assets of the State were lost and need to be recovered” the PSC explained.
It, therefore, noted that this is a complete affront to the fundamental rights of citizens and if such powers are granted, they can be used to marginalise, suppress and take advantage of vulnerable members of the population through political intimidation.
The private sector representative also raised concerns in relation to the provided to the Director of SARA, noting that those powers will blur the lines of separation of functions of the Executive and the Judiciary
The PSC questions the need for “Ministers to designate to the Director and Staff of SARA, as they see fit, the power of a revenue or customs officer, of a police officer and immigration officer rather than requesting collaboration and coordination of efforts amongst these agencies.”
Further, it compared SARA Bill to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Legislation which it said have already been enacted in the latter and included in the mandate of the Integrity Commission.