Let us end the information blackout

Dear Editor,

One of the tenets of good governance is the timely delivery of accurate information that is generated from publicly funded enterprises using taxpayer money. The public delivery of such information will reduce the opportunities for corruption that are typically endemic in information deprived environments. Access to such information by the public will improve oversight and make enforcement through administrative committees and the courts more practical. Without such information in society, the process aimed at eliminating corruption will be an exercise in futility. Alternatively, accessing such information will change the dynamics in society, where performance indicators will enhance a deeper understanding of how society is changing over time, and it will ensure a framework for measuring government effectiveness.

Useful examples of access to information are the Bank of Guyana quarterly and annual reports that capture the state, measurement and impact of money in the economy. These reports are on the Bank of Guyana website and all can access them. Another example is the annual release of the National Grade Six Assessment results which provide a wealth of information on student performance by region, by gender, and by public and private schools. Every citizen or parent with an interest in these results is informed and can make an assessment of what is emerging in education at the level of the young children in school. The release of the election results by Gecom on its website is another useful example of publishing important information for public consumption.

Can you imagine, Editor, a situation where each Permanent Secretary or a General Manager/Managing Director of a government owned business producing an annual report of the completed work of the ministry or corporation by the end of the first quarter in the New Year? Can you imagine the Auditor General at the end of the first quarter producing prior year audited reports by the end of the first quarter in the New Year? This would indeed be the beginning of effective accountability, transparency, and the professionalization of the public service. Above all, this would minimize rumour and reduce its destructive consequences in the society. Presently, we are far removed from this type of accountability, given the current situation of the unavailability of the accounts for some agencies, such as the PetroCaribe, NICIL, the Amaila Falls road project, NCN, the Marriott, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), among many other agencies. In this type of environment, assessing progress and holding those in leadership positions accountable is almost an impossibility, as objective assessments would be difficult to organize.

I would therefore argue that delivering accurate and timely information on how taxpayer money is spent and how the public is served must be a priority of the new Guyana Government. Such information should be placed on a government website, showing what has been achieved or not achieved when taxpayer money is disbursed. I would further argue that having Permanent Secretaries, the Auditor General and other General Mangers completing annual reports as part of their job responsibilities, together with these reports being debated in Parliament and examined by the press and public, will result in accurate information being available for decision-making and for policy integration within and across different sectors. This type of analysis is usually lacking in government work and therefore ‘bottlenecks’ are not uncommon events. For example, the production of sugar-cane that cannot be efficiently processed into sugar by the Skeldon plant is an interesting case. So too is rice production without rice markets; extending the runway at the airport without a prior soil test or without resolving the land tenure issue of residents; building the Marriott without sufficient funding or without resolving court challenges.

While I recognize that forensic audits are being undertaken in thirty agencies, it would be useful to have website access to GuySuCo annual reports since more taxpayer money has to be directed into this failed business, where the past board and management have not demonstrated professionalism, transparency and accountability. Also, the annual reports for each ministry, agency and corporation should be released. Additionally, I ask through you, Editor, that the complete Guyana Census Report be released immediately, as it will provide an important insight into the evolving demographic changes that will impact the economy and society in many different ways. Let us end the information blackout. Let us give taxpayers the information so that they can evaluate how their money is being spent, for too much of it has already been wasted.

 

Yours faithfully,
C Kenrick Hunte

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