Guyana seeks Int’l help to recover stolen state assets – Greenidge

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By Neil Marks in Peru

The government intends to engage in international cooperation to help in the recovery of assets stolen under the previous administration, Carl Greenidge, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said at the Summit of the Americas in Peru.

He said that among the concrete steps taken by the government in the fight against corruption is the implementation of several laws and regulations to investigate, prosecute and deter corrupt acts.

One of those steps, he noted, was the passage of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Act in May 2017.

“It is intended to engage in international cooperation in the recovery of stolen assets of the state,” Greenidge in an address Saturday morning at the Lima Convention Centre.

He said the SARA Act embodies the anti-corruption thrust of the state and is predicated on the 2003 United Nations Convention against corruption.

Further, Greenidge told the Summit that a regulatory system has been put in place to promote transparency and accountability in public office, citing the Access to Information Act, the Public Procurement Commission Act and the Integrity Commission Act.

“Guyana has launched public awareness sessions aimed at educating communities across the country and to engage stakeholders on the extent of the legislation and bills aimed at tackling corruption,” Greenidge stated.

One of the ironies of this summit has been the fact that the host country, Peru, a few weeks ago removed its president because of a corruption scandal.

But it’s new President Martin Vizcarra said the summit represented a continental response to corruption.

“Systemic corruption is the new threat to democratic governance in the region,” he said in a statement of the El Comercio newspaper.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister said the theme of the summit, which focuses on ways to end corruption, could not be more appropriate, especially at a time when corruption has been deemed to be one of the major impediments to the development and stability of our hemisphere.

Despite 183 countries having ratified the UN Convention against corruption and having secured almost universal adherence to its principles, Greenidge said the eradication of the scourge of corruption remains a major challenge and threat to the stability of democratic institutions, state security and the rule of law.

“Corruption accounts for the loss of extensive volumes of resources through illicit financial flows that could have been fruitfully utilised to facilitate the economic transformation and human development of our peoples,” he stated.

In Guyana, he said the recently passed Protected Disclosures Bill and the Witness Protection Bill, are aimed at combating corruption and other forms of wrongdoing by encouraging and facilitating disclosure of improper conduct in both the public and private sectors.

“These are a testament to the commitment and advances made by Guyana in the fight against corruption,” Greenidge noted.

He also pointed to the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission to oversee the award and execution of public contracts, in accordance with the law, public policy and value for money.

Further, the Foreign Affairs Minister said Guyana was committed to the preservation and strengthening of the Anti-Money Laundering and the Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act.

He said there has been considerable progress, with “businesses and professionals have been required to put in place systems and process to deter exploitation by criminals and thereby report suspicious activities” to enforcement agencies.”

Greenidge noted that while there have been innumerable initiatives in several countries, including enhanced laws and the establishment of reputable institutions, corruption continues to a major problem.

“Corruption also corrodes public trust in government institutions, undermines the rule of law, impairs and contributes to violence and insecurity and is a major hindrance to the twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest 40% of people in developing countries,” he stated.

He added: “Reducing corruption is at the heart of the Sustainable Developments Goals; it hinders economic growth, and development and must be eliminated at all costs.”

Greenidge however warned of the unintended consequences of too onerous regulations, with respect to the withdrawal of corresponding banking relations from Caribbean jurisdictions.

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