Reviewing public accountability in government

Improving Public Accountability: The Guyana Experience 1985-2007 by Anand Goolsarran is an expert, in-depth analysis and discussion of many of the roiling governance issues that have existed for the last several decades, and which continue to bedevil local society.  These issues are all extensively covered in Dr Goolsarran’s heavy duty effort; from the role of “supreme audit institutions” to “reform efforts (1990-2000)” to the “need to seriously address the issue of corruption in government.”  These are but a snapshot of what this 205 page work presents to the Guyanese public and a larger foreign based audience.

Dr Goolsarran himself needs no introduction to Guyanese for his work as a respected local public servant and later UN official.  He has distinguished himself through qualifications, work history, and professional ethics.  He is most qualified to pen a tome of this nature and density.  It is one that has the potential to be a textbook in any course dedicated to the fundamentals and foundations of good governance, with all its interlinked tendrils of accountability and transparency.

The writer’s main purpose, as stated in the Introduction is “to review the state of public accountability in Guyana in 1985 and compare it with international best practices.”  All of this is achieved in sometimes numbing detail and frequency, with both the commendable and cumulative disappointments dutifully recognized.  It is a stirring account of public accountability (or lack thereof) that is at once revealing as it is damning.  It is a record of how Guyana was, where it is now, and where it should be.

While the focus is on the last twenty-five years, there is no attempt to spare what went before in the earlier post-independence years, which could best be described as unorthodox and unprecedented, and highly unacceptable.  Among the questions posed are: How are monies spent? Has government been open, compliant, and forthcoming?  Are reporting requirements followed in spirit and letter?  What can be said about those in watchdog capacities, inclusive of their professional standing, delivery record, and all important independence?  And what about the record of those in stewardship roles in terms of good judgment, ethical rigour, and transparent candour where the business and monies of the state are concerned?

Solid, incontestable answers are furnished for each of these questions in a methodical and measured approach, whether writing of projects or the Auditor General’s responsibilities or the Public Accounts Committee activities.  In clinical terms, Dr Goolsarran provides the linkages between poverty and corruption; democracy and accountability and development; and the need to go beyond the paper of legislation and quickly move towards the reality of sturdy implementation.

The groundwork laid out in Part I titled ‘Theoretical and Conceptual Framework’ is done in a smooth and comprehensive manner that would be appealing to most readers.  Of particular interest to Guyanese near and far would be Part II which is captioned ‘The Guyana Experience.’  This is a cautious evaluation of the pre-1992 years of alleged electoral fraud, Consolidated Fund (and other) bank account abuses, and legislative audit failures. The writer displays an executive’s eye for scope and detail.  He is careful without being condemnatory, and scholarly instead of scorching.  Readers are able to identify with the sweep of the narrative and revisit the sharp disagreements surrounding responsibility, timeliness, and substance of various accounting reports; the uphill struggle to bring credibility to the Audit Office of Guyana; the short-lived advances commencing in 1992; and then the extended period of decline. Further, the haze around the Integrity Commission and the Public Procurement Commission, to name two near non-existent bodies, is lifted.

This book has its share of supporting numbers, tables, charts, and excerpts from recognized authorities.  There is the astonishing disclosure that 89 out of every 100 of those educated at the tertiary level in the period 1965-2005 have migrated; that narcotics is believed to account for upwards of 20% of local GDP.  And there is the irrefutable track record on financial reporting, which speaks for itself.  Admirers will praise the writer’s unswerving dedication to a relentless parade of facts and circumstances. On the other hand, local partisans, anticipating the crackle and glare of the incendiary, will bemoan his cool detachment and studied caution.

Improving Public Accountability: The Guyana Experience 1985-2007 finds Dr Goolsarran writing from a professional perspective on the way matters ought to be; how the laws require that things should be; and of the stark realities on where those very matters, so crucial to the forward progress of this nation, really stand.  This book is part exposé, part history, and all reality.  It is for the serious reader, the concerned citizen, and the hopeful patriot.  Indeed, this is a sterling effort, and a work of rare substance and sustained scholarship.

NB: Transparency Institute Guyana in collaboration with Dr Anand Goolsarran will launch this book on Tuesday, October 9 at Marian Academy, Carifesta Avenue at 5pm. Members of the public are welcome.

Latest in Features, Sunday

LUCAS STOCK INDEXThe Lucas Stock Index (LSI) rose 0.54 per cent during the third period of trading in June 2016. The stocks of six companies were traded with 79,573 shares changing hands. There were three Climbers and one Tumbler. The stocks of Banks DIH (DIH) rose 1.98 per cent on the sale of 18,757 while the stocks of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) rose 5.26 per cent on the sale of 41,667 shares. In addition, the stocks of Demerara Tobacco Company (DTC) rose 1.51 per cent on the sale of 13,603 shares. In contrast, the stocks of Demerara Bank Limited (DBL) fell 5.26 per cent on the sale of 4,324 shares.  In the meanwhile, the stocks of Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (BTI) and Republic Bank Limited (RBL) remained unchanged on the sale of 222 and 1,000 shares respectively.

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Erratic Last week’s column highlighted what I consider to be a most distinctive feature of the extractive forest sub-sector’s performance in Guyana’s economy, during the past decade.

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The UK bids Europe farewell

On June 23 by a small majority, the British people voted to remove themselves from the European Union (EU). The decision has consequences for the Caribbean.

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What would life be without sport?

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Brexit: Lessons for Caricom

The results of the referendum held in Britain to determine whether or not it should remain in or leave the European Union (EU), has been won by voters who supported the leave option.

Director of Sport Christopher Jones and President of the Guyana Chess Federation Irshad Mohammed (centre) stand with some members of the 2016 Guyana Olympiad chess team. The team travels to Baku, Azerbaijan, for participation at the Olympiad in September. A signature qualifying tournament was not held to determine the members of Guyana’s Olympiad chess team.

Federation picks chess Olympiad team without holding qualifier

The Guyana Chess Federation (GCF) has decided upon a 2016 Guyana Olympiad chess team without hosting a qualification competition to determine the competence of its participants.

Quamina Farrier

Heavy on historic significance, Journey to Freedom failed as a musical

Several Guyanese plays of historic significance were recently staged at the Theatre Guild and National Cultural Centre as part of a Jubilee festival.

Pawpaw Fruit Soup with Passion Fruit Photo by Cynthia Nelson

Fruit soup

If you’re looking for an easy dessert that uses mostly fruit, then you’ve hit the jackpot when you make a fruit soup.


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