Teixeira responds to SARA’s Director

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Dear Professor Clive Thomas,

I am pleased to note that you have responded with such alacrity to my correspondence of April 16, 2018. Having read statements made by you and others yesterday at the symbolic march organized by SARA, l am now compelled to respond to both.

My correspondence pointed out glaring instances of some of the grossest violations of the constitutional and statutory provisions regarding financial probity, transparency and accountability which you as a self-proclaimed anti-corruption campaigner would, l would have thought, be profoundly concerned about.

The examples l raised were not necessarily exclusive to the powers you hold as Director of the State Assets Recovery Agency but as a citizen who spoke out so often publicly and authoritatively accusing successive PPPC governments of massive corruption, and have continued to do so, I therefore thought that now that you head such a powerful body with a hefty legislative clout and have access to the inner camera of the political directorate that you would want to do something to expose, investigate and protect the citizens from any acts of corruption and violations of the constitution and laws of our country regardless of who was involved.

Sadly, your response only confirms what most people believe that the SARU now SARA, is a body created for one purpose and with one target alone on their radar —  the PPPC leaders and supporters!.

This view is bolstered by official statements such as the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU)’s  response to the Private Sector Commission’s comments on the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Bill, February 15, 2017:-

“In some areas of corruption, the size of loss speaks for itself. Before the change of Government, the nation was losing $28-$35 billion each year through procurement fraud. With regard to illicit capital flight, the nation was losing $90 billion every year. Furthermore, the underground economy caused the nation to lose $188 billion per year. This adds up to a grand total of $306-$313 billion per year, which is a conservative figure as according to several international agencies, this amount is grossly understated.

 Given the purposes of the Bill and the damaging losses to the economy as stated above, it is imperative that the Bill be passed immediately. The scale of corruption discovered by SARU, to date, is astounding. The Guyanese population is eager to see the country’s assets recovered and appropriate action taken against the perpetrators of corruption. The SARA Bill is geared toward these purposes.”

After the great haste to pass the bill in April 2017, supported by such screaming assertions, aimed at recovering these assets, a year has passed. You now say that “SARA does not and cannot initiate investigations without first receiving a complaint such as yours.”

So can you say who made the complaints about the $28-35 B lost each year in procurement fraud or the $306-313 B per year being lost due to corruption?  Strange to say, these are the same figures you used prior to the 2015 elections? Are you, sir, the complainant? And where is your evidence? If you declared such losses were real and then used your position in the SARU/SARA without evidence and mere mathematical speculation, then this is a case of reckless irresponsibility of enormous proportions. Such disinformation fed to the Guyanese electorate for several years leading up to the 2015 elections as well as friendly governments and international organizations clearly has been now exposed as a concerted political campaign to get the PPPC out of office.

If your allegations are the source of these investigations, why then are the complaints and exposures made by civic-minded individuals and the media about corruption by members of the APNUAFC government not worthy of investigation?

In terms of your defense as to why no action has been taken with regard to the numerous cases of corruption l raised in my previous correspondence, l wish to remind you of statements made during an Anti-Corruption Sensitisation Seminar (Demerara-Mahaica) , by your Deputy Director, Aubrey Heath-Retemyer and reported in the media on November 9, 2017  that “Guyana’s State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) has 25 “solid cases” of officials of the previous government having properties that they acquired unlawfully using their then privileged positions”. It is now over a year later and no action has been taken.

This number of “solid cases” has now dropped to 10 cases to be brought in the last quarter of this year external to Guyana as declared by you yesterday.  Why wait to the end of the year, what are the reasons for the delay? Is it because you are having trouble finding “cogent evidence to satisfy the court that the property is the proceeds of unlawful conduct of a public official” as required in civil recovery under the SARA Act. Or is it you wish to keep massaging the lie against the PPPC leaders leading up to the 2020 elections?  Therefore you are guilty, as are others, of the worse fraud perpetrated on the hearts and minds of the Guyanese people in the nation’s history.

Whilst no case has been brought to substantiate these outrageous claims you and the government have besmirched people’s characters and lives and tried people in the public eye with no proof to uphold any of the claims.

I have noted your proclivity to drop names with regards to experts from international agencies including the UNODC, the World Bank and the United Nations who you claimed helped to develop and widely reviewed the bill as to the powers of the Head of the SARA. Nevertheless, the constitutionality of the SARA Act and the Director’s powers which override the independence of constitutional post holders such as the Director of Public Prosecutions will be determined by our courts and not any unnamed international experts.

And you continue to drop names with regard to “documents received from External Law Enforcement Agencies such as Interpol, Homeland Security and CFTAF have shown the massive scale of corruption and money laundering during the late 2000s to the mid 2010s”. After spending over $150 M expended on forensic audits to undercover the corruption of the PPPC government and assuming the above-mentioned documents are available, after 3 years, you have been unable to find the $30 B per annum you and others publicly claimed for years was stolen by the PPP C government.

At the April 20th March, you now admit that “We can’t recover state property in this country….without fighting in the courts outside of Guyana…. It’s a global fight! The wealth has left Guyana. It is deposited into accounts in places outside of Guyana….. we need to get to those accounts to place the charges against the persons who hold Guyanese assets through some initial unlawful conduct and to try to recover it for Guyana.”

A day after writing me, you now publicly admit that documents you referred to receiving from those external law enforcement “did not contain hard evidence to make out strong court cases.” You now admit that “there is a difference between information and evidence”.

I hope you have taken to heart the statement by the British High Commissioner, as you do not seem to want to take the word or information of a Guyanese such as myself, or any other Guyanese, that “There can be no escape and no impunity for those who are corrupt. Regardless of where you are, regardless of who you are, everyone must act within and be subject to the laws of the land.”

 

Your sudden insertion in your letter referring to a criminal case against a former Permanent Secretary having $20 B in his bank accounts is interesting as this case has been in the courts for over a year and seems to be going nowhere. Or are the sources of this money too close to home?

Since SARA seems to be having a problem with the cases l raised, let me make a complaint to you about the following cases that fall squarely in your remit:-

  1. The acquisition of a house and land in Bel Air Gardens, then state owned, below market value at that time and with no recourse to any procurement process by the former Minister of Finance of the PNC government and now 2nd Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Carl Greenidge of the APNUAFC Coalition. .
  2. The PPP/C government responded to the Burnham family’s request for land and issued 5 acres of prime land in Georgetown at no costs to former Vice President and First Lady Mrs. Viola Burnham and widow of President Forbes Burnham in D’Urban Backlands.
  3. The acquisition of a huge tract of land to the People’s National Congress for their party headquarters, Congress Place, in Sophia, at no cost and where sections have been sold over the years at market value and for profit, the most recent sale took place after the 2015 general and regional elections.

All of these cases are easily investigated as all the records are publicly available. And remember the SARA Act provided for retroactivity, probably one of the first statutes that did so.

As such, l am now formally laying my complaint with reference to the cases regarding corruption, abuse in public office and violation of the constitution, Procurement Act, and financial laws listed in my letter dated April 16, 2018 and those listed above and call on SARA to investigate them.

 

The most egregious case relates to the sale of our national patrimony in oil and natural gas well below what is observed internationally and “relatively favorable to investors by international standards,” as stated in the IMF report prepared for Guyanese officials. Follow the trail Dr Thomas you will find the answers and the accounts of those who benefitted.

Again your letter refers to the US International Narcotic Control Strategy Report and other reports which “depicted Guyana as one of the most corrupt countries in the world”. How do you now address the most recent 2018 US State Department report which stated that

Narcotics trafficking and government corruption are the primary sources of laundered funds.  However, other illicit activities, such as human trafficking, illicit gold mining, contraband, and tax evasion, are also sources. “( pg 111, Volume 11) ?

You must admit that the phrase “Government corruption” was never used before to depict a “primary source of laundered funds.”

Your view of the PPPC administrations is so jaundiced that you stated that “little if anything was done institutionally between 2008- and mid 2010s to ensure “corruption is everybody’s business”. Unfortunately you have failed to acknowledge that the fundamental anti-corruption legislative framework was established under successive PPPC governments. To name a few:-

-constitutional reform that insulated the Auditor General from executive interference;

– many new laws -the Procurement Act; Financial Management and Accountability Act; the AMLCFT Act 2009; Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act; Access to Information Act;

-the removal of power to appoint judges from the President including the appointment of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions;

– the appointment of the three service commissions through a consensual parliamentary mechanism instead of appointment by the President.

Backed with administrative measures to enhance transparency such as the public opening of tenders, the posting of the minutes of the opening of bids and awards by the NPTAB on its website, all of these are no longer available and the website is devoid of information. Guyana was the only country in the region that introduced such scrutiny with the procurement process.

In other words, the framework to prevent and reduce corruption in government and by public officials through the separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary based on rule of law was put in place by the PPPC government. All of these measures guarded by the constitution, law and administrative mechanisms are unraveling in the APNUAFC Coalition government.

As the former Guyana Expert between 2008- 2015 on the MESICIC, the Mechanism that monitored the implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption between 2008- 2015, l wish to suggest that you familiarize yourself with the reports submitted by Guyana in the four rounds of review between 2006-2014 to see what progress was being made and the review reports of the MESICIC. All are available on the OAS MESICIC website.

In closing l note your statement that “ the goal is to repel procurement fraud, stolen state assets, corruption so that Guyanese of all walks of life can be assured their roads, national patrimony , gold and other state assets are used for the betterment of all Guyanese”. In other words all the cases l brought to your attention in my first letter and this follow up fall into that stated goal.

So l return, sir, having read your response now even more convinced that you will do nothing but play “smoke and mirrors” and continue on your and the APNUAFC mission to do nothing about corruption in this government’s circles but continue to mislead the people and target the PPPC leaders.

I therefore return to my earlier letter and reiterate that “the APNUAFC Government can easily be classified as the most corrupt government in the post-independence English speaking Caribbean” costing the Guyanese people billions of dollars with greater hardships and deepening poverty.

Sincerely,

Gail Teixeira, M.P.,

Chief Whip for the Parliamentary Opposition

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