Opposition refuses to participate in anti-corruption campaign

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The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has refused an invitation from the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) to participate in an anti-corruption Campaign.

The campaign dubbed “Corruption is everybody’s business” is aimed at edifying the public on their role in fighting corruption. The first activity in this ongoing campaign will be the Anti-Corruption Walk billed for April 20, 2018.

In response to a letter sent from head of the Agency, Dr. Clive Thomas, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira said the Leader of the Opposition will not participate in the walk because it is “a mere smoke screen to detract from the grossest violations of the constitutional and statutory provisions regarding financial probity, transparency and accountability” under the current government.

Teixeira also said the party will not partake in the event while its members are being victimized and “targeted by a state-sponsored witch-hunt on frivolous manufactured charges.”

See full statement below:

Dear Dr. Clive Thomas,

Re: Invitation to Participate in Anti-Corruption Awareness Campaign “Corruption is Everybody’s Business”

I wish to acknowledge your letter of invitation to the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Bharrat Jagdeo, M.P., to participate in a “symbolic” walk against corruption on April 20, 2018.

The Leader of the Opposition wishes to inform you that he is supportive of any efforts that will strengthen the state’s institutional, legal and procedural framework for fighting corruption in keeping with the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, the UN Convention Against Corruption and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

However, the Leader of the Opposition will not participate in this “symbolic walk” as it is a mere “smoke screen” to detract from the grossest violations of the constitutional and statutory provisions regarding financial probity, transparency and accountability ever witnessed since independence. Furthermore, it will not participate in such a walk while members and other public officials of successive PPPC government have been discriminated against, victimized, and targeted by a state-sponsored witch-hunt on frivolous manufactured charges.

The Parliamentary Opposition holds firmly to this position, which was reflected in the PPP press release of April 14, 2018, and herein reiterate, that

“after being in office for only three years, the APNU+AFC Government can easily be classified as the most corrupt Government in the post-independent English speaking Caribbean. Indeed, its corruption is only surpassed by its incompetence.

In three short years it has managed to completely by-pass the public procurement process, mandated by law, and has handed to its cronies and financiers, hundreds of contracts to the value of Billions of Dollars”…

The number of cases of such violations is mounting on a daily basis. Suffice herein to provide a few most notable ones thus far which have cost the Guyanese people billions of dollars to their detriment:-

–          the Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence ordered the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) to purchase $620M in drugs and pharmaceuticals supplies in 2017 from an identified supplier, without any resort to the procurement process. Then shamelessly and publicly accepted a gift of a freezer from the supplier to store some of these pharmaceuticals. What is worse, the pharmaceuticals were acquired at a cost of over 100% more than their market value. The Minister of Finance was forced to produce in the National Assembly the NPTAB’s records of requests for and grants of waivers of the tender process which revealed that the Ministry of Health’s request for the waiver was denied yet it went ahead and procured this enormous quantum of pharmaceuticals in blatant disregard of the rule of law.

–          The now famous contract for the Sussex Street Bond -a mere house- which the Government rents in Albouystown, for $14M GYD per month to store pharmaceuticals, when that same house can only yield a rental of approximately $100,000 GYD, on the open market. There was no resort to any form of procurement as admitted by Minister Dr. Norton in the National Assembly and for which he was placed before the Privilege Committee; the matter remains pending since 2016! Despite a special cabinet review team that found that the contract was flawed, and, Minister Harmon stating in 2016 that the Cabinet would reconsider the contract, it remains intact and over $300M GYD thus far been garnered by the owner in rental. In 2017 the Bond was found to contain no pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

–          This Government expended over $2B of taxpayers’ dollars in the construction of the Jubilee D’Urban Park facilities and established a Special Purposes Company, that was given the responsibility to raise funds and implement major construction works under this project, comprising of a Minister and known members of the PNC. In 2016/2017 the taxpayers had to pay for the construction of the facilities in time for the 50th Anniversary by way of supplementary financial provisions with no disclosure as to the total costs incurred. Again, there was no resort to any form of public procurement. Despite repeated demands, they cannot produce any credible records to the Office of the Auditor General, in relation to this project. This matter was also brought to the attention of the newly appointed constitutional Public Procurement Commission in September 2017 to investigate and no action has been taken.

–          In September 2017- the contract for a pre feasibility study for a New Demerara Harbour Bridge was found to have been awarded to a company that did not bid despite there was a public tender where 12 companies bid and one was shortlisted. This procurement breach was also documented to the Public Procurement Commission in the same month and to date, it has taken no action to investigate or rectify the matter.

–          This Government surreptitiously negotiated a petroleum sharing agreement with Exxon Mobil in 2016 and for over a year refused to make it public despite thunderous public pressure. Since December 2017 with the exposure of the Guyana Government agreement with Exxon signed in June 2016, this matter remains the subject of major public debate. The government’s sale of the country’s newly found oil and natural gas resources for a pittance is a shame on all Guyanese and a stain Guyana will have to endure for decades to come. Even the IMF and countless international petroleum watchdog bodies have found this to be a flawed agreement in violation of basic acceptable international standards for first discovery oil countries and have noted that  Guyana will be grossly disadvantaged from reaping it’s just rewards.

–          This is a Government that surreptitiously stashed in a secret bank account, $18M USD, received from ExxonMobil as a signing bonus in 2016 and uttered not a word about it to the public for over a year. In December 2017, the media exposed proof of the USD 18 M signature bonus that government received from Exxon. The funds were put in a Bank of Guyana interest bearing foreign currency account instead of being deposited in the Consolidated Fund as required by the constitution. This matter has been taken to the courts.  The government continues to refuse to move the monies to the Consolidated Fund to reflect accurately the country’s revenues in compliance with the constitution.

–          This Government took 30 months to appoint the Integrity Commission and after 3 months the Commission is not functioning. In 2016, this government defeated a parliamentary opposition motion calling for all Members of Parliament to make public their income tax submissions and their Integrity Commission declarations for the previous 10 years.

–          The Auditor General’s Annual Report for Y2016 found 82 breaches of the FMAA and 71 breaches of the Procurement Act as shown below:-

 Summary of Findings from 2016 Audit Report 2014 2015 2016
Overpayment on construction 53 62 126
Weak internal controls 90 99 106
Breach of FMA Act 47 21 82
Breaches of Procurement Act 2003 16 18 71
Breaches of Stores Regulations 52 53 60
Others 19 71 53
Outstanding cheque orders & missing vouchers 24 21 31
Overpayment of Salaries 16 20 22
Non-delivery of items 16 21 18
Revenue related matters 24 7 13
Public Accounts 12 15 10
Losses not yet written-off 20 31 4
Misstatement of Appropriation Accounts 1 0 3
Non-disposal of unserviceable vehicle 7 3 3

 

–          The US State Department Report, March 2018, titled, “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report – Volume II,” identifies Government corruption, for the first time in Guyana’ history, as one of the main source of money-laundering. In short, we have a “Government of money-launders.”

–          This government secretly paid itself, retroactively, a 100% increase in salary, to July 1, 2015, mere weeks after assuming office.

In the light of this short list of blatant transgressions by this Government, can one wonder why the Parliamentary Opposition, critical national stakeholders and thousands of Guyanese are angry at the audacity of this government to accuse others of corruption when there is nothing being done to stop this “corruption haemorrhage” undermining the rule of law in our country ?

The government manipulates the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and directs the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to institute fabricated and malicious charges against political opponents and highly qualified professional Guyanese, who have served their country and their people with distinction. The frivolous charges instituted against Dr. Ashni Singh and Mr. Winston Brassington are simply the most recent, and, we have no doubt others will be made victims of this vindictive and undemocratic regime.

In conclusion, the passage of the SARA Act has given you, sir, enormous, in fact, super powers —something we abhor as it is in total contravention to human rights and due process- but sir you have those powers so why have you taken no action as a so-called anti-corruption champion to bring members of the present government to book? As they say clean your own house so that others can see the light and know you are serious about fighting corruption!

You are right, sir, “Corruption is everyone’ business”; we have made it ours, maybe you can demonstrate to the Guyanese people that it is yours.

Sincerely,

Gail Teixeira, M.P.,

Parliamentary Opposition Chief Whip

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