In their manifesto, the APNU+AFC at page 13 promised to “implement the Public Procurement Laws, ensure transparency and accountability in government by granting access to citizens of all aspects of the government’s transactions and activities.” In a mere six months of government, they have embarked upon a number of projects and made some astonishing appointments, all of which are lacking in transparency and accountability, with little or no information to the public.
Up to now, the public is unaware of how much money was spent on the presidential inauguration and from where this money came. A question was asked in the National Assembly. The answer provoked greater ambiguity than clarification. Up to now, no one knows what method was used and what form of consultation was embarked upon to arrive at the list of 57 persons who received national awards. The nation is still in the dark regarding why the names of the ministries were changed and with whom consultations were held in relation thereto. I already drew attention in a previous letter to the fact that several persons were appointed to state and government boards and the appointees only knew of their appointments when they read about it in the media.
It is now confirmed by the administration that 30 persons were appointed in Canada and the United States as “Advisors to the President on Diaspora Affairs”. When I made this disclosure, I predicted that the response of the government would be that they are not being paid. As incredulous as this proposition appears to be, the following questions must be answered:
(i) why were these appointments not made public? After all, these are public officers, attached to the state, and advising on matters that are in the public’s interest;
(ii) how were these persons selected and what are their qualifications?
(iii) what are their terms of reference?
(iv) assuming that they are working pro bono, I presume that they are operating out of offices, will incur day to day expenses, will have to travel to Guyana on occasions – is the government covering these expenses?
My information is that these appointments took place in North America and were done, not at government events, but at a political party event. These are not party appointments but government appointments ‒ or is it that there is no longer a difference between party and government? Are these persons party members only?
These are all questions which must be answered. After all, not only does transparency require it, it is a manifesto promise.
The singular major project embarked upon by the administration since it took office, is the Specialty Hospital. The nation is still recovering from the disclosures that the administration wants to proceed with a contractor for this multi-million US dollar project whom they handpicked in violation of the Procurement Act and who is a former client of a sitting Vice President, who coincidentally, after 3 years, is now valiantly attempting to distance himself from this contractor.
Another project which is causing us similar concerns is the cleaning up of the city of Georgetown.
Firstly, let me say unambiguously, that I welcome the cleaning up exercise in the city. The Mayor and his crew have been in office for 20 years and I have never seen a clean-up campaign of such magnitude and diligence, although while the PPP/C was in government, hundreds of millions of dollars were pumped into the city council annually by central government to do precisely this. It was never done. So we are very happy that like Rip Van Winkle, the Mayor and his team have finally risen from their slumber and Guyana now can enjoy a clear city.
However, I am concerned about the absence of information being made public regarding:
(i) how much money has been spent thus far and whence it is sourced;
(ii) how many contractors have been given contracts and what the value of these contracts is;
(iii) by what process these contractors were selected, since no public procurement was done;
(iv) the process used to evaluate the work to ensure that there is value for money.
These are details to which the public is entitled, again, under the principles of transparency and accountability, as well as in satisfaction of the manifesto promise of this administration.
In the absence of full and frank disclosures on these matters, the population may conclude that they are transactions which are all tainted by corruption. Of course, the administration can prove me wrong and make these disclosures.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall