Guyanese are seeing no return on the money spent on the National Intelligence Centre

Dear Editor,

As Guyanese endure a 38% increase in gun related robberies, a 37% rise in murders, reports of a kidnapping and the failure of the judicial system to effectively prosecute offenders, we cannot avoid wondering how our anti-crime tax dollars are being used.

We recall that in May, 2013, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee, launched the ‘I Paid A Bribe’ website, which allowed citizens to report corrupt transactions. To date, a year later, we have yet to hear of any results of this initiative. In March, 2014, Minister Rohee revealed that more than $4 million was allocated to pay for a study of the defective 911 response system. Again, no word of the results has been forthcoming. In December, 2010, $224.4 million was earmarked for the installation of CCTV cameras around Georgetown. Today, the government has yet to tell us what benefit has been derived from the system. Guyanese may therefore be justified in asking: where has all the money gone?

According to current Commis-sioner of Police (ag) Seelall Persaud, the feed from the CCTV cameras is monitored at the National Intelli-gence Centre (NIC). Of course, an intelligence centre is expected to gather intelligence and produce results. In November, 2012, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon revealed that the NIC is under the control of the Office of the President (OP). The questions therefore arise: if the NIC is functioning, why have Guyanese not heard of any drug rings being dismantled, or kidnap victims being tracked down and rescued, or footage from the cameras being used to investigate and prosecute criminals? Also, if the CCTV cameras – which were installed beginning just before the 2011 elections – were indeed intended for anti-crime purposes, why are the video feeds going to an intelligence centre controlled from the OP, instead of the police?

Editor, obviously, taxpayers’ money is being spent to maintain the NIC, yet Guyanese are seeing no return on all of that money. So, what is the NIC really doing?

Guyanese have seen reports of convicted drug lord Roger Khan being found with a spy computer in 2002. At that time, it became known that its acquisition was facilitated by a government official. We know that technology has advanced since that time and more advanced spy

equipment is now available.

We can therefore surmise that such advanced equipment is available to our government. We may therefore ask whether such equipment is being used by the NIC, and against whom? Since criminals are not being caught and prosecuted – according to the government’s own statistics – we can arrive at only one of two conclusions. Either the NIC is ineffective against criminals or, the NIC is not tracking criminals at all. If we conclude the former, then, taxpayers’ money is being wasted. And if we conclude the latter, then, the NIC must be doing something else, and we need to know what that something else is.

Editor, these are worrying speculations that must be addressed. The NIC has no known terms of reference, so does that mean that the spy agency can spy on anybody? As the NIC is under the control of the executive, should we worry that the agency is spying on critics of the regime? Should a government agency that has spying capabilities not be subject to parliamentary oversight?

Given these concerns, I would suggest that parliament take steps to bring the NIC under non-partisan control as quickly as possible. Guyanese must not tolerate a spy agency, controlled by a ruling regime which has shown contempt for accountability and displays autocratic tendencies. Additionally, all programmes which are funded by taxpayers must either show results or be shut down. Guyanese are struggling to survive; we cannot afford to maintain systems that do not work for us, or government departments that are using public funds for narrow partisan purposes.

Yours faithfully,

Mark DaCosta

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