Whistleblower’s Bill passed


The Protected Disclosures Bill was passed in the National Assembly on Thursday, January 18, 2018.

The Bill was presented by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams S.C., who noted that the Government is on an irreversible path to countering corruption is all forms.

“We trust that corruption in all its forms and state assets of whatever nature would be safe and secured henceforth,” the AG told the House.

The bill seeks “to combat corruption by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sectors, to protect persons making those disclosures from detrimental action, to establish the Protected Disclosures Commission to receive, investigate or otherwise deal with disclosures of improper conduct and to provide for other related matters.”

The Attorney General told the House that the provisions of this bill are well known to employees of the state and have been signed on to by stakeholders.

Opposition Member of Parliament Adrian Anamayah, while questioning if this is the best model of the bill for Guyana, made clear the opposition’s support for aspects of the bill. He also questioned the necessity of the Protected Disclosures Commission.

His colleague, MP, Harry Gill called for the bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee for further examination, pointing to the overarching ministerial powers.

The whistleblower legislation – formally known as the Protected Disclosures Bill – encourages persons to disclose information regarding misconduct in the public service with the knowledge that they will be protected.

The legislation proposes the establishment of a Protected Disclosures Commission tasked with the responsibility to receive, investigate and otherwise deal with disclosures of improper conduct.

But the subject minister – in this case, the Attorney General Basil Williams – will be empowered to give general directions to the commission. Gill objected those powers, noting that it compromises the integrity of the commission.

Gill questioned “what happens when a public servant blows the whistle on a minister who is involved in corruption or a member of staff who has evidence linking a minister to discrimination, harassment, and verbal abuse in the workforce? You may recall that not so long ago, the minister himself was the subject of an investigation of alleged harassment and verbal abuse were levied against him by a formal Deputy Solicitor General.”

Gill was referring to the case of the Deputy Solicitor General Prithma Kissoon who alleged discrimination and abuse against Williams – who has since denied the claims.

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan in his presentation reminded that Guyana has signed onto the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Corruption and it is in this vein that the Whistleblower Bill was crafted.

Minister Ramjattan expressed hope that the passage of the bill will challenge the capacity of the citizens to speak out on wrongdoings. He emphasised the need for public awareness.

Acknowledging the cost attached to the operationalising of the Protected Disclosures Commission, the Public Security Minister called on the Opposition side of the House to focus more on the cost to the stability of the society, if such a bill is not enacted.

“It is consistent with bills passed in other Commonwealth countries…and other non-commonwealth countries. It has the highest standards of what we want for Guyana,” the Minister said.

The Bill also allows for complaints to be made 12 years prior to the enactment of the legislation.

In closing arguments, AG Williams in response to Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira said there is a connection between the Protected Disclosures Bill and the Witness Protection Bill.

He discounted arguments that the bill is deficient, noting that it is unique to what obtains in Guyana. (Extracted and modified from DPI)

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