Transparency body wants compromise by all sides on anti-laundering bill

In the face of an ongoing political impasse, Transparency Institute (Guyana) Inc. is asking all sides to seek compromise to pass the anti-money laundering bill and called for the appointment of the Public Procurement Commission and the Integrity Commission to bolster the fight against the lack of accountability.

In a statement issued yesterday, TIGI recalled that the Government had tabled in the National Assembly amendments to the Act on May 7, 2013 “to address a number of shortcomings highlighted in the third evaluation report the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) dated July 25, 2011.”

It noted that the Assembly referred the proposed amendments to a Select Committee for detailed scrutiny and reporting to the Assembly.

“The key concerns of CFATF were that: (a) Guyana’s legislation needed to be overhauled to bring it in line with the standard recommendations used to evaluate countries’ efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing; and (b) Guyana had taken minimal steps to implement the requirements of the existing legislation,” the statement said. “In particular, concern was expressed that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which is the backbone of the legislation, had only a Director whereas the Unit is to be staffed also by a lawyer, and accountant and such other officials trained in investigative work,” the statement said.

It noted that the Government subsequently received a damning letter dated April 10, 2013 from the CFATF citing several warnings and references to earlier notifications of Guyana’s precarious position since November 2012.

“TIGI appeals to all the political parties to set aside their individual differences and in the interest of compromise and goodwill to find common ground so that the amendments can be approved before the deadline expires,” the statement said.

“TIGI believes that it is in the public interest that the views of all political parties should be seriously considered and, to the extent that they are justified, those views should be incorporated in a revised draft for consideration of the National Assembly,” the statement said.

The body took the opportunity to remind legislators of the urgent need to establish the Public Procurement Commission to oversee public procurement “which accounts for approximately 70 per cent of public expenditure,” and to appoint the members of the Integrity Commission to scrutinize the annual declarations of assets and liabilities of, among others, Ministers of the Government, other Members of Parliament and other senior public officials.”  Noting that corruption is the abuse of public office for private gain, TIGI said that it is therefore linked to money laundering.

“It would therefore not be unreasonable for legislators to consider all three important measures at the same time,” the statement said.  “TIGI is confident that if a sincere and dedicated effort is made to have these measures put in place; and the concerned entities are staffed with independent and technically and professionally competent officials and are provided with adequate resources to discharge their mandates effectively, drug trafficking, money laundering and perceptions of levels of corruption will be significantly reduced,” TIGI said.

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