PPP will respond to ‘damning’ corruption allegations

- Nandlall

In the face of serious charges that the PPP’s leadership has been compromised by private interests, central committee member Anil Nandlall yesterday said the party would respond to the “damning” allegations of corruption in due course.

“I would not want to embark on a response that would be considered to be pre-emptive of what the party will say, but I have no doubt that the party views it with deep concern and the allegations are damning and serious and the party will respond in due course,” Nandlall told a news conference yesterday.

Ramkarran, the former Speaker of the National Assembly who resigned from the party after 50 years over his concerns about corruption, has charged that the PPP government is reluctant to do anything about corruption due to its link with three groups who finance the party’s leadership, which in turn serves their interests.

In his weekly Conversation Tree column, Ramkarran identified the groups as a collection of wealthy and influential businessmen who have high political connections; contractors for state projects; and bureaucrats in the public sector.

“This situation is a direct result of the failure of the PPP to build on the work of (the later former president) Cheddi Jagan and to deal with corruption. Many of these contractors, businessmen and suppliers of goods and services have close links with the PPP, including members of the leadership,” he wrote.

Nandlall skirted around giving a definitive statement on the charges, saying that “the party as a collective would like to respond.”

He said repeatedly that “we have not met as executives, as a collective from the time the statements were made to now,” when it was pointed out to him that it was not the first time corruption allegations have been levelled against the PPP.

Ramkarran said that since the last elections, several revelations have emerged of corrupt, and even potentially criminal, activities by persons currently or previously associated with the PPP and who have friends in the leadership or access thereto. “Corruption has become so pervasive that it is no longer possible to keep the evidence away from the press and the police. And most important, none of them have come to light as a result of any action initiated by the government without prior exposure,” he said adding that it is now clear that the adamancy of the government and the PPP in refusing to acknowledge the level of corruption in the society, and to do something about it, is linked to where the corruption is located.

In a recent high-profile case, a whistleblower skipped the Guyana Police Force and instead went straight to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to alert it to a possible multi-million dollar fraud in the US$19M Citizen’s Security Programme (CSP). While the investigation is ongoing, the former programme coordinator Khemraj Rai’s quietly step down in March prior to the IDB’s Office of Institutional Integrity heading a three week investigation into the alleged forgery of millions in contracts.

The recent arrest of Richard Kanhai, owner of Strategic Action Security, who has been accused of theft, including of one of the government’s One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) project computers, has also raised concerns as his firm holds significant state contracts for security. Kanhai has been released on bail and no charges have been laid as the investigation is ongoing.

Nandlall, however, stated yesterday that “the response doesn’t have to come from the government, the response has to come from the law enforcement agencies, the response doesn’t have to come from the party, the responses have to come from those who are charged under the legal system with the responsibility of  investigating crimes.”

Asked if Strategic Action Security’s various government security contracts would be suspended due to his arrest, Nandlall emphasised that the “constitution confers upon persons a fundamental right of a presumption of innocence. The government would be wrong to go about a witch hunt to penalise persons based upon the mere institution of a charge.”

Junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill, who was also present at the news conference, added that Kanhai’s contracts were awarded through public tender. “A contractor is awarded a contract because they satisfied technical, financial and administrative specifications of a bill,” he explained, while adding that there are various questions asked of contractors and the theft allegations would be considered in the future. “When any future bids are submitted by that company, it will be evaluated on the merit of the answers provided,” he noted.