Guyana has slipped further down the Transparency International (TI) Corrup-tion Perception Index (CPI) after scoring an unflattering 27 out of 100 points following its assessment for this year.
The country’s ranking of 136 from a list of 177 countries was announced by the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) yesterday at the Pegasus Hotel, where it was also revealed that Guyana placed 28th out of the 32 countries in the Americas and is the worst performer for all Caribbean countries with the exception of Haiti.
By contrast, Barbados scored 75 points, the highest in Caricom; The Bahamas 71; St Lucia 71; Trinidad and Tobago 38; and Jamaica 38. Suriname came in at 36 this year. It is against this backdrop that Guyana’s score of 27 is realised as worrying. And, Guyana’s poor performance this year is further compounded by the fact that the country has actually attained a worse result that what was accorded for 2012, when it scored 28 and was 133 out of 176 countries surveyed.
The methodology used by TI ranks countries from 1 to 100 after measuring perceived levels of public sector corruption. A score of 100 is reflective of the lowest perception of corruption.
Commenting on the results yesterday, chartered accountant and financial analyst Christopher Ram told Stabroek News that the results are disappointing but that he doubted that anyone will be surprised considering the many revelations of corruption made by politicians and other civil society members.
“You can’t blame the people for believing that corruption exists,” Ram said, while nothing that there are probably persons in Guyana who do not perceive a high rate of corruption, or are at least defensive on the matter.
He also said that the drop from 28 to 27 might not seem significant but argued that “any downward movement is very bad when your numbers are already low.” Guyana’s situation is cast in an even bleaker light as TI, in its report, says that any score of less than 50 indicates that a country is facing serious corruption problems. Guyana shares its score of 27 with Bangladesh, Kenya, and the Ivory Coast.
Implications of poor score
President of TIGI Anand Goolsarran yesterday said that Guyana’s scores can bring several negative implications. Many reputable international business and other establishments, he said, have confidence in the numbers produced by TI and therefore use these indicators to determine where to invest and where to avoid investing, since operating in a corruption-wrought state can prove to be costly.
Goolsarran, a former Auditor General, also said that citizens, in their attempt to flee a state they perceive to be riddled with corruption, may migrate. “There is therefore brain-drain with the concomitant spiralling effect of not having the relevant skills to effectively manage the operations of a government. In short, high levels of corruption result in the perpetuation of weak governments,” Goolsarran said.
Alliance for Change (AFC) leader Khemraj Ramjattan, who attended the announcement yesterday, noted that high levels of corruption may also attract “non-reputable companies.” TIGI Vice President Frederick Collins affirmed Ramjattan’s point and noted that several companies have been known to bribe their way into winning contracts to conduct projects in various countries. The same thing is liable to happen here, he said, unless actions are taken against corruption.
How did we do worse?
Ram thinks that the perception of corruption in Guyana has not improved because the political will necessary to make needed changes does not exist or has not been demonstrated. The government, he said, has done little more than admit that corruption exists in Guyana.
Meanwhile, “many of the constitutionally required institutions that can impact on corruption are weakened or do not exist,” Ram told Stabroek News. The Public Procurement Commission (PPC), which has been the topic of much debate as of late, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Integrity Commission, the Whistleblower Legislation and the Access to Information Act are all either non-existent or not fully constituted.
In relation to the Integrity Commission, Goolsarran said that public officials continue to submit their returns to the commission even though it is not functioning and he said that this makes absolutely no sense. This view, he said, was expressed to the representatives from the Organisation of American States when they visited Guyana earlier this year to hear from stakeholders in various matters.
The Attorney General’s Office, he said, which is also supposed to work in the favour of the people in Guyana, cannot be taken seriously.
If corruption is to be prevented, Goolsarran said, Guyana must adhere to four principles. The first is referred to as the arms-length principle which demands that decision are made on merit rather on the basis of personal and other relations. “There should be no room for nepotism, fovouritism and cronyism.
The second principle, “citizens’ participation and involvement in public decision making,” will ensure that there is collective responsibility for actions taken, Goolsarran says. He believes that such a provision will minimise the perception that corruption is taking place. The final two principles require free and independent media to accompany transparent decision-making, and limitations on the use of discretionary powers.
But, just how reliable are the figures produced by TI?
Ram is of the opinion that the information released by the organisation in relation to Guyana, is valid and reliable because it was constructed from the reports of surveys carried out in Guyana by four reputable independent bodies: the World Bank (WB), the World Economic Forum, the International Country Guide, and the Global Insight Country Risk Ratings.
Explaining the processes followed by these bodies when carrying out their surveys, Goolsarran said that they frame questions; decide on sample sizes big enough to reflect the perception of the population, and use a combination of questionnaires and face to face interviews to arrive at their figures.
He said that members of the business community, general members of the public and government officials are also interviewed in an effort to generate society’s perception of corruption in Guyana. TIGI is not at all involved in the generation of the index, Goolsarran explained.
Transparency International is a global civil society organisation devoted to fighting corruption. Although the organisation defends its index, it concedes that the findings are not absolute.
“There is no meaningful way to assess absolute levels of corruption on the basis of hard empirical data. Possible attempts to do so, such as by comparing bribes reported, the number of prosecutions brought, or studying court cases directly linked to corruption, cannot be taken as definitive indicators of corruption levels. Instead, they show how effective prosecutors, the courts, or the media are in investigating and exposing corruption. Capturing perceptions of corruption of those in a position to offer assessments of public sector corruption is the most reliable method of comparing relative corruption levels across countries. The CPI is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide that guides investors, lending institutions and other interested parties in their dealings with individual countries,” TI says on its website.