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The non-governmental Transparency International (TI) has recorded Guyana, in Year 2022, with a one-point improvement on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Guyana is now at 40 on a 100-point scale. In President Irfaan Ali’s first year, Guyana has dropped two points on the CPI. On the CPI scale, the lower down in the number means the corruption is high, the higher number (50 and over) means less corruption.
The TI report says Guyana has significantly risen in the CPI over the last 12 years but recently the country has stagnated. During the A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) there was steady improvement on the CPI.
The body further suggests oil-rich Guyana must place stronger emphasis on building a well-functioning democratic system and implement greater levels of transparency and oversight, especially in the extractive industry.
Civil society and the political opposition have flayed the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government on its refusal to comply with a campaign promise to renegotiate the oil contracts when most Guyanese feel it should. There has also been expression of concern about the Environmental Protection Agency engaging in due diligence to properly manage the environment and mitigate environmental disasters.
TI in its report points out that “corruption in this sector implies the loss of billions of dollars, which could be used to improve public services and development in one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere.”
AFC Member of Parliament (MP), Mr. Ricky Ramsaroop, in the Budget debate has expressed concerns the EPA is not engaging in the required capacity building to ensure proper oversight. He told the National Assembly it is important for the government to “implement the World Bank Plan providing for a 36-member unit of highly specialised Oil & Gas unit at the EPA for robust oversight and monitoring, including 24/7 on-ship presence to obtain reliable and real-time data.”
Other areas where the government is lagging include the refusal to accede to the civil society and opposition request to make public the disbursement of cash grants and do an audit. Leader of the AFC and MP, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan has called for the information to be placed on the respective ministry’s website so people can see who gets what and know whether they are entitled. The simple request continues to be ignored.
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is stymied in its efforts to do its work due to poor attendance by the Government MPs. The PAC has oversight responsibility for government spending.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton, and President Ali are still to meet on important constitutional matters. One such includes the appointment of Chief Justice and Chancellor. The Opposition has taken some of these matters to court, requesting the Court direct the government act in conformity with the Constitution of Guyana.
The Government is also refusing to engage in collective bargaining with some trade unions, namely the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU).
The GPSU has taken the government to court, requesting the Court directs the government to respect the right to collective bargaining as enshrined in Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana and International Labour Organisation, Conventions Nos. 87 & 98 which the government is a signatory to.
Proposing a way forward, TI recommends governments should strengthen their institutions to ensure the necessary checks and balances to fight corruption effectively.
“Governments should also guarantee adequate conditions for civil society, activists and different communities to participate in public life and demand accountability without fear of retaliation. Only by promoting integrity and transparency in criminal justice institutions is it possible to protect those who denounce corruption and end the impunity for corruption, abuses and crimes.”
Further, given that corruption networks are becoming more sophisticated, it is necessary to make better use of technology during investigations, enhance collaboration between prosecutors from the region, and implement more comprehensive measures to stop the flows of dirty money from corruption and organised crime, the body states.
Whilst TI notes the challenges are immense it is pointed out that “with a joint effort by different sectors, the construction of consensus and more participation, the Americas has the opportunity to overcome them and build more democratic and inclusive societies with greater levels of integrity in public life.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) points out that “Corruption hurts everyone. The impact of corruption goes beyond the corrupt individuals, the innocent colleagues who are implicated, or the reputation of the organisations they work for. Corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector to act in our best interests. It also wastes our taxes or rates that have been earmarked for important community projects – meaning we have to put up with poor quality services or infrastructure, or we miss out altogether.”