‘Feel free to blow the whistle’ – AG
Though the Government is short on finances to fully implement the Protected Disclosures and Witness Protection Act, Attorney General Basil Williams is still encouraging persons to blow the whistle.
“They could blow the whistle, they have normal protection under the law and anyone who wants to blow the whistle, feel free to come forward and blow the whistle,” Williams said when asked by News Room at a press conference Monday.
Earlier this year, the National Assembly passed modern legislation to protect persons who are desirous of disclosing information on misconduct in public service.
Williams explained that while the anti-corruption laws are there, the country does not have the requisite funds to ensure they are fully functional.
The Whistleblowers Act, formally known as the Protected Disclosures Act, provides for the establishment of a special commission to receive, investigate or otherwise deal with disclosures of improper conduct.
Complementing this legislation is the Witness Protection Act, which provides for the establishment of a programme to protect persons who have critical information or evidence against corrupt officials.
Asked therefore if those laws are just toothless, Williams responded in the negative, noting that as soon as the country acquires the funds, those systems will be put in place.
“As soon as money is available obviously, and as you know, money could be available shortly, you would know that on July 4, 2018, we were told we are very rich,” the Attorney General said, hinting at the number of oil finds offshore Guyana.
In the meantime, Williams is still encouraging persons to blow the whistle as the police force has the power to offer protection.
“Without that Act, if somebody comes and blows the whistle, the police supposed to give people protection,” the Attorney General stated.
He explained that in any case, not everyone who comes forward with information will be entitled to protection from the State.
“You have to qualify to enter into witness protection, for example, you can’t just come in and decide you want witness protection for child support,” he posited.
The Attorney General noted that since the bills were passed, no one has come forward with information about misconduct in the public service.
In 2016, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan had expressed that the absence of a witness protection programme contributed to the resistance of persons providing information to the police in relation the alleged misuse of public funds during the previous administration.