Despite saying that he was unaware of how advertisements for CDB-funded projects were being placed in the media, a unit of Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh’s ministry has resumed placing ads only in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle and the government-friendly Guyana Times.
When the issue of discrimination was raised in May by Guyana Publications Limited, publishers of the Sunday Stabroek and the Stabroek News, during the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in Georgetown, the ads were pulled from the two newspapers.
On May 29th, at the closing press conference for the CDB event, Singh, who at the time was the outgoing Chairman of the Board of Governors of the CDB was asked about the placement of the ads in the presence of the President of the Bank, Dr Warren Smith.
Singh said he was unaware of how the advertisements for CDB-funded Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) projects are placed in the media and would raise the issue with the relevant department.
Further asked by Stabroek News how the CDB would be addressing the Guyana Government’s withholding of taxpayer-funded state advertising, Singh said that he was not involved in the process and was not versed on the current situation. He also said at the press conference that “rules” governing how taxpayer-funded state advertisements are placed in the local media are being followed.
For his part, the CDB President stated that he was not aware of the issue and did not feel it was appropriate to comment.
In an invited comment yesterday, Stabroek News Editor-in-Chief (EiC) Anand Persaud said it seemed that the Finance Minister was unable to influence any change in the discriminatory placement of ads as the BNTF unit in his ministry had resumed placing them over the last month in the Guyana Chronicle and the Guyana Times only.
Persaud said this is just another example of the duplicity of the government whenever it is confronted by egregious violations of good governance. The EiC said that monies disbursed on behalf of the citizens of this country must not be trifled with and should reflect best practices and value for money. He said the manner in which the ads are presently being placed violates all of these tenets.
Persaud added that it was also not acceptable for the CDB to take a hands-off approach on perverse practices such as this as they reflect poorly on the bank’s standards for the disbursement of funds.
The Guyana Publications Inc statement issued in May had said:
“The Government of Guyana over the past seven years has discriminated against sections of the private media by withholding taxpayer-funded state advertising from them. This behaviour is discriminatory, constitutes an attack on press freedom and violates the Declaration of Chapultepec on press freedom to which Guyana is a signatory.
“Discrimination in the placement of advertisements has also extended to projects in Guyana funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) particularly those that come under the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF). Advertisements for the Sixth Cycle of the BNTF are only placed in two newspapers: the state-owned newspaper and a government-friendly newspaper. Other private media are being discriminated against. With the imminent start of the Seventh Cycle of the BNTF, the discrimination will continue as the local office handling the BNTF project has not responded to queries by Stabroek News on the placement of advertisements.
“It is ironic that the opening of the Forty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of CDB in Georgetown was preceded by a procurement seminar for CDB-funded projects when the Government of Guyana is violating best practice in the procurement of advertising financed by the CDB from funding which has been secured on behalf of all of the people of Guyana. Advertisements should be placed in a manner that allow them to be read by all sectors of society while at the same time providing value for money.
“When the Seventh Cycle of the BNTF was launched in Georgetown on June 27, 2013 it was stated that these projects would be community-informed and proposals would be accepted from citizens in the areas where the projects are to be carried out. This cannot be successfully done if the Government of Guyana continues to discriminate in its placement of advertising.”