After making pre-election promises to deal with corruption in government, President Donald Ramotar, almost one year later, appears more unwilling than unable to show uncompromising leadership in ensuring systematic prosecution of those who have been ripping off the state, even as the Auditor-General’s 2011 report reveals ongoing instances of bare-faced rip-offs.
When Mr Ralph Ramkarran wrote about pervasive corruption, he was only highlighting what most Guyanese already knew, but instead of the Ramotar regime taking corrective action, it sat and watched as Mr Ramkarran resigned in bitter disappointment from the PPP after decades as a senior member. Then came shocking news that two entities which usually team up to go after criminals and criminal suspects were caught in compromising situations.
The Guyana Police Force only returned the unspent balance of the highly controversial $90M loan it obtained for police activities during the 2011 elections because of aggressive media coverage that led to a hasty audit by the AG’s office. And the Guyana Defence Force spent $1.6B in 2011 but did not submit vouchers to the AG’s office for corroboration purposes. These are supposed to be the nation’s most disciplined institutions!
The display of leniency by the President has become troubling to the point that Guyanese are concluding that his failure to start going after the thieves of state monies gives the impression that he tolerates corruption, and that all those who got rich via corruption during the Jagdeo era are not likely to be called to account.
In addition to the cases of theft and appearances of theft cited in the AG’s report, there are other instances where highly dubious deals were struck by the regime to benefit ‘government-friendly’ suppliers of products and services to government. But it is the fact that despite the previous AG’s reports containing instances of rip-offs and no remedial action being taken that now begs the question: Is the PPP’s refusal to confront and circumvent corrupt practices based on the growing perception that some of those close to it benefit from the corruption? Based on the lack of remedial action, the general consensus of those who defraud would seem to be that they can break the law and get away with it, so why not keep on doing it and still hold on to their ill-gotten gains. Despite all the cases of corruption cited over the decade, there is not even a court case where rulings have been made ordering repayments to the state.
I once challenged both Stabroek News and Kaieteur News to start a special section in their internet versions giving a corruption catalogue highlighting all the instances of corruption/misappropriation, especially those cited by the Auditor-General, so Guyanese at home and abroad can have a detailed insight into the amounts of public money being ripped off. I believe if readers of the catalogue know the dollar figure of the amount of money all these rip-offs are costing the public treasury, the proactive private media, the concerned public and the aggressive parliamentary opposition can pressure the President to snap out of his paralysis and ensure steps are taken for all the stolen monies to be returned or seized from bank accounts or in the form of physical assets.
With the private media, the public and parliamentary opposition on the same page holding the PPP regime accountable and responsible, the parliamentary opposition can also make a case for filibustering government’s agenda understandable and acceptable until the President takes decisive action on corruption.
For example, there should be a tri-partite backed panel of independent auditors with subpoena powers to demand government contractors with red flags over their contracts submit the books/records, and investigate all cases cited in the AG’s reports with a view to obtaining reimbursements or criminal indictments or civil settlements.
Otherwise, the parliamentary opposition can bluntly refuse to pass any of the government’s bills into law. To me, if there are no harsh consequences for these crooks, then where is the government’s moral or legal authority to go after any non-PPP white collar criminal or low-level criminals robbing citizens and businesses? The bike cops in parks and recreational areas will be either one big joke or a continuing pattern of discrimination as the big fishes swim free while the little fishes get hooked and fried.