Guyana will remain at the bottom unless gov’t tackles corruption

–transparency group warns

Saying there is overwhelming evidence to support the wide perception of corruption in Guyana, the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI) is warning the government that the country will remain at the bottom of every international ranking unless it moves to address the real issues.

“Perceptions aside, there are serious institutional, administrative and judicial failures which continue to facilitate widespread corruption in the country,” TIGI said in a statement released yesterday in response to criticisms by the government of Trans-parency International’s Cor-ruption Perceptions Index for 2012.

“While TIGI would welcome suggestions from the government regarding an appropriate methodology to measure corruption, a more constructive course would be for it to implement reforms to facilitate transparency in public accounting and thereby minimize corruption in public life,” it added.

On the latest index, which was released last week, Guyana is listed among countries rated as having a serious corruption problem, with a score of 28 out of 100 points and a ranking of 133 out of 176 countries surveyed.

The CPI measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean) and any score below 50 indicates a serious problem. Two-thirds of the countries surveyed scored below 50.

Although Guyana’s score was worse than every other country in the Caribbean except for Haiti, both the government and the ruling party have dismissed the country’s poor ranking, questioning the methodology used for the index, while also attacking TIGI Vice President, former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran.

In its statement yesterday, TIGI noted that its call for action against corruption has been studiously ignored in the responses to the ranking so far. Its call to action includes the urgent appointment of an Ombudsman, the Integrity Commission and the long-delayed Public Procurement Commission as well as for modern anti-corruption and whistle-blowing legislation and the strengthening of existing anti-corruption institutions, such as the Guyana Police Force and the Financial Intelligence Unit to enforce the laws.

Calling it regrettable that the results of the CPI were not met with “introspection or a spirit of constructive engagement” by the government, it charged that the administration’s spokespersons, Presi-dential Adviser Gail Teixeira and Attorney General Anil Nandlall as well as the ruling party’s youth arm, the Pro-gressive Youth Organisation (PYO) chose instead to misrepresent TI’s standing, sidestep the substantive issues and launch character attacks.

Teixeira, it noted, made the “preposterous charge” that the survey involved “four men alone who hold in their hands the fate of our country.” The PYO, it said, agreed that the survey was “opaque” but “bewilderingly” attributed the methodology to be that of TIGI. Nandlall, it added, “most clueless of all” alleged that there was no stated methodology, a failure to disclose the sources or where any alleged corruption exists.

TIGI condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the attacks on Goolsarran as well as accountant Christopher Ram, whom it said the PYO claimed to be driving the work of TIGI. “TIGI’s work is driven by its strategic plan and an independent Board of eleven Directors and a Treasurer – all impartial and credible citizens with varying levels of expertise. Mr. Ram is not a Director of TIGI. These attacks are entirely without foundation, and serve only to reinforce instead the efforts of Dr. Goolsarran and Mr. Ram, in his individual capacity, in exposing corruption in the public sector,” it said, while urging the public to bear in mind that the CPI was compiled by Transparen-cy International with no input whatsoever from TIGI or either of the individuals singled out by the government.

“TI’s CPI is based on wide-ranging and comprehensive research, both qualitative and quantitative in nature, as conducted by leading and reputable international institutions,” TIGI explained, pointing out that it is an aggregate indicator of these various sources, and in order to be included therein the source data must fulfil rigorous methodological and substantive criteria.

For the 2012 index, it said, Transparency International canvassed information from 13 such sources, and in relation to Guyana relied on four surveys. As a result, it said the country’s score represents an average of the standardized scores of each individual institution. None of this is hidden, TIGI pointed out, saying the information is freely available to the public on TI’s website at http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/in_detail. Further, it said the CPI was independently reviewed by the European Commission, which concluded that the updated methodology used “besides being appealing for reasons of transparency and replicability, is also conceptually and statistically coherent and with a balanced structure.”

Not isolated

The perceptions of corruption in Guyana, TIGI also said, are not isolated to Transparency International or the surveys it used since a host of other reputable local and international institutions have publicly identified the pervasiveness of corruption in Guyana. It cited the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey 2012, which ranks Guyana 114 out of 185; the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom 2012, which ranks Guyana’s economy at 137 out of 184 globally and 23 out of 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the score for freedom from corruption being particularly low and below the regional average (27.0); and the US Department of State’s (US DOS) Investment Climate Statement 2012, which found that there are “widespread concerns about inefficiencies and corruption at the ministerial, regional, or national level in awarding of contracts.”

In addition, it also highlighted the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Guyana 2009-2012’s declaration that corruption and weaknesses in public accountability are among the key challenges that constrain private sector development and the low social and economic return on public spending, as well as the 2010 Latin American Public Opinion Poll, conducted by Vanderbilt University, which found that 78.5% of the Guyanese surveyed perceived corruption to be high.

“Thus the government may choose to continue to ignore legitimate concerns of corruption and attack personalities but the growing perception of corruption as a serious problem in Guyana has been identified by numerous independent sources of authority all extrinsic and unrelated to TI and TIGI,” it said.

Addressing the criticism that the CPI only measures perception, which is heavily subjective, TIGI argued that this fact does not detract from its reliability. “The CPI is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide,” it said, while adding that since corruption by definition comprises illegal activities, “it is invariably hidden and can only come to light through scandals and where public institutions in the country (administrative and judicial) function effectively through investigations and prosecutions.”

TIGI added that where institutions do not function effectively, it is only an independent media that can bring to light hidden deals and corrupt transactions, thereby making the use of perceptions inevitable. In Guyana, it noted, there is ample evidence that key public institutions are weak and ineffective and some do not function at all, for investigations and prosecutions of seriously corrupt activities are unheard of. Further, it said that where illegality surfaces, state institutions have been known to cover-up investigations and discontinue prosecutions.

As a result, TIGI reiterated its call for concrete measures to counter corruption in Guyana. “TIGI urges civil society partners and all citizens not to become distracted by criticisms on the methodology of the CPI but rather let us all instead focus our discussion on what concrete actions are being taken to combat corruption in Guyana rather than denying it exists,” it added.

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