Oversight commissions can cut corruption perceptions

- Goolsarran

The newly-elected head of the local corruption watchdog group says it is not too late for Guyana to put mechanisms in place for a better ranking on Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which is due to be released later this year.

“With four months to go, it is not too late to put in place certain mechanisms aimed at reducing perceptions of corruption, such as the appointment of members of the Public Procurement Commission, the Integrity Commission and the Public Service Appellate Tribunal, and the appointment of an Ombudsman, among others,”

Anand Goolsarran
Anand Goolsarran

according to Anand Goolsarran, the new President of the Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI), in a message released by the group yesterday.

Government has faced mounting local and international pressure for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission, in particular, in recent months, but has signalled that its retention of its vole in the contract awards process is a precondition for moving ahead. The Integrity Commission, meanwhile, is only manned by a chief executive officer and an administrative assistant, while no Public Service Appellate Tribunal has been in place since 1995 and no ombudsman since 2005

With a score of 28 out of 100 points, Guyana ranked 133 out of 176 countries surveyed for the 2012 CPI, placing worse than every other country in the Caribbean except Haiti. The government, however, subsequently dismissed the ranking, saying there is no empirical data to support the findings and up to last week President Donald Ramotar said that when the government challenges the reports of corruption all that is being heard of is “perception.”

“I have every confidence that [Guyana] can cut those perceptions significantly if we can accept the CPI results on Guyana in good faith and genuinely [commit] ourselves to putting in place mechanisms aimed at eradicating corruption and to have a better rating and ranking come next round,” Goolsarran, a former Auditor General, said in his message.

Goolsarran, who was elected TIGI’s president last Friday at its second Annual General Meeting, also said TIGI was disappointed at the reaction of the government upon the release of the CPI. “I hope that the government, in its quiet moment of self-reflection, would have acknowledged that it has made a mistake,” he said.

At the same time, he noted the need to reach out to the government to forge “a genuine partnership” in a mutual attempt to eradicate the scourge of corruption that has been plaguing Guyana for the longest while “and that has been growing in intensity of recent times.”

“Without in any way compromising our independence as a civil society organisation, we would like to forge a good professional working relationship with not only the government but also all the political parties, Members of Parliament and other stakeholders. We stand ready, and at a moment’s notice, to meet with these key stakeholders to explain to them, among others,  who we are, what we are doing, what we try to achieve and how we can work together to make Guyana a better place under the Sun. We commit ourselves to this approach,” he said.

According to Goolsarran, the “most talked about issue” facing Guyana is corruption and TIGI sees itself as the leading force in the fight against corruption consistent with Article 13 of the UN Convention Against Corruption, to which Guyana has acceded. Article 13 states that each State Party shall take appropriate measures to promote the active participation of individuals or groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations in the prevention of and fight against corruption and to raise public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by corruption.

TIGI has started this journey already through its outreach programmes, public service advertisements, billboards and fliers, as well as meetings with various stakeholders, Goolsarran said, while also acknowledging the need to intensify these efforts.

He noted TIGI is facing a number challenges that it must seek to overcome, including the need to attract new members so that it can develop and grow as a civil society organisation devoted to promoting good governance practices, transparency and greater public accountability.

He said TIGI is hopeful that it can create branches on the Corentyne, New Amsterdam, Linden, West Demerara and Essequibo, once it is able to attract enough members from these areas. TIGI also plans to reach out to the Guyanese diaspora, he said, so that it can benefit from the vast experience and expertise available overseas. “In this regard, we encourage as many Guyanese as possible to join us in our struggle to make Guyana a better place for our children and our children’s children. I do not hesitate to think that this is not an impossible task but we must first overcome the fear factor and the tendency of putting self-interest before the public interest,” he added.

In addition to Goolsarran’s election as TIGI president, Fred Collins was elected 1st Vice President and Dr. Mellissa Ifill as 2nd Vice President, while the remaining members of the new Executive are Dr. Arif Bulkan, Esther McIntosh, Calvin Bernard, Dhanmattie Sohai, Nigel Hinds and outgoing president Gino Persaud. The outgoing Directors were Fr. Compton Meerbux, Slydell Glen, Enrico Woolford and former TIGI president Nadia Sagar.

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