It was with profound disappointment that I read the Gina article of June 11, ‘One more sitting for Rodney COI,’ specifically the part that read:
“As for the expensive engagement of Shaun Samaroo, Minister Harmon indicated that Cabinet considers this as ‘money not well spent’ but since the expenditure was authorised by the former President Ramotar it will not be pursued. Samaroo, for the covering of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, was paid a monthly salary of US$7, 300.”
As someone who firmly believes that the present political administration, as defined by both the plans and assurances of its electoral campaign, is in sum good for the development of Guyana, and that it will need more than five years to correct the wrongs of the previous administration, dismissing Mr Samaroo’s indecently remunerated hackery is a tremendous blunder on the part of this new government.
First of all, to dismiss it on the premise that Mr Ramotar authorized it runs counter to the basic logic of changing governments. There are many things that Messrs Ramotar and Jagdeo authorized that were intrinsically wrong and need to be frontally addressed, but which by that logic should be completely ignored.
But even that premise gives false credence to a couple of things that were glaringly and absurdly wrong about the Samaroo engagement.
First of all, Mr Samaroo has listed his supposed obligations under said contract but nothing else. Of the seven deliverables he lists, the only one that in terms of public perception was fulfilled was number two, “Write news reports, stories, features and multimedia scripts around daily happenings at the Commission,” which would appear to have been his propaganda published in the Chronicle, yet even by his own admission he says that his Chronicle ‘journalism’ was done ‘pro bono’. Mr Samaroo states that he only received part payment under the contract but has not presented evidence of any work completed.
Secondly, presuming that there exists an actual contract under which Samaroo had been engaged to undertake responsibilities for which he has no credible experience, capacity or competence, for example “Network with global organizations, academic institutions and relevant interests to popularize the findings of the Commission,” how was this contract awarded? Public procurement guidelines stipulate that non-capital contracts over $800,000 have to go to public tender; Mr Samaroo’s single monthly payments amounted to $1.5 million each yet I cannot recall any indications of interest to bid for such services being advertised.
What remains puzzling to me is that seen against the context of the NCN case, where $3M of private sector funds intended to go to the state was directed into a private account and triggered a special investigation, you have $16M of public funds being expended under a contractual arrangement and it is simply dismissed. That this development comes after Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s equally glib dismissal of the NCN case, after highlighting it as a clear-cut case of corruption prior to the elections is frankly troubling to me.
Outside of the public accountability issues surrounding this contract, there is another perhaps greater potential fallout for the dismissive attitude to holding Mr Samaroo and whoever would have been the architect(s) of this arrangement accountable. Plainly put, it sends a message to people like me that ruthless and unprincipled behaviour funded by the previous administration was completely excusable, and implicitly so was the converse administration-approved economic blacklisting of critics like myself.
I believe that it is in the interest of public transparency that the full details of Mr Samaroo’s contract should be put into the public domain, including his deliverables, schedule and conditions of payment, and penalties for non-delivery. Also, it should be in the public interest to find out how much Mr Samaroo has been paid and for what. The public can then judge and perhaps share its input on the way forward.