Jagdeo slams SARU claim about billions

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo today lambasted claims by the State Assets Recovery Unit that the country lost up to $313b per annum in corruption and illicit capital flight among other causes while the PPP/C was in office.

A statement from Jagdeo’s office follows:

The State Asset Recovery Bill, Bill No. 3 of 2017 was tabled on January 30, 2017 and the administrative State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) in the Ministry of the Presidency has been silent in defending or even answering the many criticisms made of the bill in the media.

Coincidentally on February 16, 2016, the day of the opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Guyana, today’s media ran stories emanating from the SARU in defense of the bill.

As a result of the SARU’s statement, one headline screamed “SARU says country was bleeding $313B per annum”, another shouted that “$306 B per year stolen under the PPP” whilst the third exclaimed that “Guyana was losing $300B annually through corruption under the PPP.”

In an economy of $600B, these repeated lies perpetuated ad nausem by the 82 year old Clive Thomas, Head of SARU, are laughable. According to Thomas’s figures half of the economy was lost annually to corruption. If $300B were lost annually due to corruption then the APNU/AFC government should have saved $600B ( USD $3 B ) in the almost 2 years in office. Could Clive Thomas advise if this is so?  

We need not remind everyone that Guyana under the PPP/C government achieved eight (8) consecutive years of positive economic growth, one of only two (2) countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

These claims, repeated lies in fact, have never been substantiated. After 45 forensic audits in the last 20 months costing the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars with hand-picked auditors and the sole objective of finding the state assets, money and property, that the APNU/AFC government and Clive Thomas allege were stolen by the former PPP/C government, these findings have delivered not the bonanza they have obsessed about but instead delivered a “mouse”. Two interesting little findings were uncovered—the first was the grand figure of USD $3,500 from GO-INVEST and the other $8,500USD from the New Guyana Marketing Corporation!

It is the PPP/C parliamentary opposition which brought a motion in 2016 calling for all Members of Parliament to publicly declare their income tax declarations for the past 10 years which was defeated by the APNU/AFC government. The government even defeated an amendment calling on all MPs to comply with the Integrity Commission Act and to also make those declarations for the last 10 years public.

Their refusal to support the amended motion is no mystery – since the enactment of the Integrity Commission Act, 2000, the PNC MPs have never complied with the Act. More telling is that the APNU/AFC government has made no effort in the last 20 months to appoint the Integrity Commission and most recently have moved all the records of the Office of the Integrity Commission to the Ministry of the Presidency and sent home all the staff.

The SARU was created explicitly to target and intimidate PPP leaders and members, and, as practice has shown members of the business community; its objective is vindictive and its practices violate the Guyana Constitution. The State Assets Recovery Bill before the National Assembly intends to enshrine these violations.

If the APNU/AFC government was genuine in going after corruption and protecting state assets why has the SARU taken no action on any of the 26 scandals that have taken place in the 21 months of this government’s term? If one chooses just a few of these scandals that have been publicly exposed – Durban Park Development Project, the Sussex Street Drug Bond, the multi-million settlements to the financiers of their 2015 electoral campaign using billions of dollars of tax payers money estimated modestly at over $80B, the silence and inaction of the SARU speaks volumes of its real agenda. Unashamed, this government is prepared to squander and raid the treasury to return the political investment of their electoral financiers.

The Parliamentary opposition continues to reiterate its demand that an international firm be hired to track down state assets held abroad by current and former government officials, as well as those managing public entities. The APNU/AFC government and its SARU “henchmen” remain silent on this matter. If there was a genuine desire to go after misappropriated assets, as is being alleged, then why has the government not acted?

SARU’s baseless unsubstantiated allegations once again  expose the APNU/AFC Coalition Government’s intention of witch-hunting political opponents, destroying reputations and intimidating members of the business community.

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