Corruption endemic in Guyana’s Public Sector- British High Commissioner
By Stacy Carmichael-James
British High Commissioner Greg Quinn has deemed corruption and anti-money laundering as the two cancers that rob countries of funds, both of which are problems that need to be stamped out in Guyana.
High Commissioner Quinn was speaking this morning at the Anti-Corruption, Anti-Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Seminar being held at the Police Officers’ Training Centre, Camp Road, Eve Leary.
The High Commissioner quoting a recent corruption report said Guyana was ranked 108 out of a total of 176 countries which shows the country has endemic corruption existent in the Public Sector. He warned that if Guyana is to continue on a development path, then it is imperative that these issues be tackled head on.
Corruption and Money Laundering, he said must be stamped out and ill-gotten funds recovered. Using the British System as a benchmark, High Commissioner Quinn said three things must be followed; corruption must be exposed, the corrupt should be pursued and corruption must be driven out wherever it exists. He emphasized that there must be “no impunity,” reiterating that corruption degrades the fabric of a society.
Support, he said must be given to those who have suffered as a result of corruption and reminded of the commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 16, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams in his presentation reiterated that corruption hinders economic growth as it scares away investors both local and foreign, undermines public confidence and leads to less participation by members of society; hence he said Government has taken a zero-tolerance approach to corruption in all its forms.
He alluded to the numerous legislation crafted to stamp out corruption and protect those who provide information that leads to the prosecution of those guilty of the act. The Witness Protection Bill is one such legislation. The State Asset Recovery Bill which was presented in the National Assembly, Williams noted is in keeping with Guyana’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
The AG reminded that when this Bill is successfully passed in the House it would lead to the establishment of the State Assets Recovery Authority which would be empowered to investigate, trace and identify state assets wherever they are in the world, suspected to be attained as a result of corruption.
Williams called for the cooperation of all stakeholders and alluded to the appointment of six prosecutors who would be working in collaboration with the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Office on the High Profile Cases. He said Government will remain proactive in seeking international support and work along with other countries in the fight against corruption and anti-money laundering, among other financial crimes.
He expressed optimism that the seminar would foster a sense of integrity among those in attendance, which included Immigration Officers, Police Officers, Investigators and other professionals attached to the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU).
Financial Crime Expert, Dr. Sam Sittlingtom, who is working along with SOCU made the feature address where he highlighted the need for going after those persons guilty of corrupt acts, regardless of their status in society. He also pointed to several cases in Ireland and how investigators were able to prosecute notorious money launderers. Dr. Sittlington alluded to the fact that financial criminals are able to effectively hide their assets, many in off-shore accounts.
He stressed the need for cooperation since a requirement of the Financial Action Task Force is for there to be cooperation in all aspects of financial crime and in Guyana he has observed denial of information by some individuals and entities.
Various presentations would be made throughout the one-day seminar; among the presenters are Retired Major Aubrey Retemyer, International Financial Advisor, Ian McDonald and Special Advisor to the Attoney- General, Tessa Oudkerk.