TIGI members discuss ‘fear’ inhibiting fight against corruption

Report on AGM

The Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) has a new executive as a result of its first Annual General Meeting on 27 April, 2012 which saw the election of a new Board of Directors. Outgoing President Nadia Sagar was replaced by Gino Persaud, Attorney-at-Law who is a founding Director of TIGI. The first Vice President is Chantalle Haynes and the second Vice President is retired Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran. Goolsarran recently published a book on accountability and corruption in Guyana. The book is titled: Improving Public Accountability: The Guyana Experience 1985 – 2007.

The other directors elected are Dr Arif Bulkan, Attorney-at-Law and Lecturer in Law at the University of the West Indies; Nadia Sagar, Attorney-at-Law; Esther McIntosh, Independent Consultant; Dr Thomas Singh, Economist and Lecturer at the University of Guyana; Fr Compton Meerabux, Catholic priest; Enrico Woolford, Journalist; Frederick Collins and Slydell Glenn. The first Board of Directors meeting after the AGM saw Chartered Accountant Ramesh Seebarran elected as Treasurer and Frederick Collins elected as Secretary.

After the formal business of the AGM was concluded the new Executive of TIGI engaged its members on issues of concern to them and a fair bit of time was spent discussing the phenomenon of corruption in the public and private sector of Guyana as well as the effects of corruption on the country, on the national psyche and whether corruption had become an acceptable part of life. There was also a discussion on how TIGI would discharge its mandate, what kinds of activities it can pursue and ideas were offered to which the Executive was grateful to receive.

Another concern discussed by members was the issue of fear and speaking out publicly on corruption in the private and public sector. Concerns were expressed that speaking out publicly against corruption incurs recrimination and victimization. It was said that fear for physical safety and fear of discrimination precludes citizens from speaking out on issues of national interest even if it means holding public and private officials to account. This “fear” prohibits citizens from joining in the fight against corruption in the public and private sector.There was a debate as to whether “fear” was more perception than reality and whether persons use “fear” as a convenient excuse not to get involved or to avoid taking a public position against corruption.

Role and function of TIGI

Transparency Institute Guyana is an affiliate and the local contact of Transparency International (TI) (www.transparency.org) – the pre-eminent international corruption watchdog. TI is the world’s leading global coalition against corruption working through 100 national chapters around the world and an international Secretariat in Berlin promoting transparency and accountability. TI’s vision is a world in which government, politics, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption.

TIGI is a fledgling civil society organisation formed in Guyana by a few Guyanese who were extremely concerned about the growing phenomenon of corruption in Guyana coupled with the desire to counter its effects by raising awareness on corruption, its effects and the need to promote transparency, accountability and integrity. It was felt by the founding directors that collaborating with TI and forming a national chapter of TI in Guyana would be the best option. Transparency Guyana is a legal entity established as a not for profit company under the Companies Act of Guyana. TIGI is the only civil society body in Guyana dedicated exclusively to promoting transparency, accountability, integrity and anti-corruption. Recent disclosures in the media over the past few weeks have demonstrated how acute corruption has become in Guyana and how relevant the work of TIGI is. The Access to Information Bill though passed in the National Assembly is still not operational.

In 2011 the annual Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI) of TIrevealed that Guyana was ranked poorly at 134 out of 182 countries with a score of 2.7 out of 10. Guyana ranked below all the surveyed countries of the English speaking Caribbean and just below Haiti. The CPI which is done every year is a credible tool of TI which ranks countries based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country scores on a scale of 0 to 10 where zero means highly corrupt and 10 means very clean. The majority of 183 countries score below 5 indicating that corruption is an enormous international problem.

According to TI the CPI has “been widely credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda. It is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries.” The 2011 index draws on assessments and opinion surveys which include questions related to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and the effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts. Perceptions are used because corruption is to a great extent a hidden activity that is difficult to measure. Over time, perceptions have proved to be a reliable estimate of corruption.

It is a well-known fact that many organisations and investors around the world consult the CPI to see how countries rank for the purposes of research or investment. The CPI is widely used and cited with approval and authority around the world.

The priorities of TIGI include:

•    To educate and raise awareness of the many faces of corruption, its causes and consequences on national development.

•    To promote the effective and transparent functioning of public and private institutions for the benefit of all Guyanese.

•    To lobby for and actively engage stakeholders in the formulation of policies and enactment of legislation to promote transparency and eradicate corruption.

•    To empower citizens to demand a society where public and private officials in positions of trust are held accountable.

•    To encourage citizens to support the work of TIGI and to get actively involved

Transparency Institute Guyana cannot bring about meaningful change without your support in promoting anti-corruption measures and transparency. TIGI needs you to demand accountability and to say no to corruption. Your “no” counts! TIGI encourages you to promote integrity in public life.

TIGI needs the help of citizens and volunteers to do its work in an effective manner since corruption affects each and every citizen. Public education and raising awareness from the grassroots level to all strata and sectors of society is critical to effecting change, demanding change and implementing change. TIGI also needs to raise funds to do its work and to keep its doors open. If you are interested in volunteering with TIGI or assisting with resources to help promote the principles of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption in Guyana then please email us at trans.inst@yahoo.com or write the Secretary at Lot 157 Waterloo Street, Georgetown.

In our next column we will focus on the Integrity Commission.

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