The Transparency Group Guyana Inc (TIGI) this evening said that the transfer by Minister in the Ministry Natural Resources, Simona Broomes of her mining interests to her children does not cure the conflict of interest issues swirling around her.
In a statement TIGI suggested an alternative to address the issues.
A statement from TIGI follows:
On the Question of Conflict of Interest Regarding Junior Minister Simona Broomes
Affirming that an individual is in a “conflict of interest” position is neither an evaluation of that individual’s character nor an assertion of any intent to engage in wrongdoing on her part. It is more a concern about whether it is possible for her to use her position to extend special privileges to individuals or entities with whom she is related, or for personal benefit. It is about whether impartiality is guaranteed for all by the system or structure or set of arrangements in place. Furthermore, it is a concern that the very conditions prescribed for an absence of a conflict of interest should be applicable to all individuals who have held and who will hold such an office in the future. Essentially, the same conditions must be consistently applied and should not depend on the individual under consideration.
The issue of conflict of interest regarding Hon. Simona Broomes functioning as Junior Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment given her direct personal stake (at the time) in the mining industry has resurfaced and comments have been sought from TIGI. In response to the concerns about her personal stake the industry, Minister Broomes’ mining operations have now been transferred to her children. In spite of this recent action, a clear conflict of or “related party” interest would exist whenever matters affecting the mining operations of the children of Minister Broomes are either handled or contributed to by Minister Broomes. One should also be wary that junior officers might feel obliged to act in a manner that gives favorable treatment to people associated with or related to the Minister, even (or especially!) in matters for which the Minister would have declared conflict of interest.
The popular recommendation at present is that Minister Broomes be moved to another ministry. This recommendation is rooted in the experience of the recent past combined with current low level of accountability to the people. Against this backdrop, intolerance of a more nuanced alternative is understandable. Yet, such an alternative might be appropriate if applied in its entirety:
- Minister Broomes should first declare conflict of interest and recuse herself from all relevant matters.
- In addition, the Ministry would need to become more transparent and more accountable to the public. It would then need to make information available to be scrutinized in order to promote public confidence in its operations.
TIGI is of the view that especially in a small society like ours, conflicts of interest and related party concerns will arise and such situations should be avoided as far as possible. That notwithstanding, what is required, as exemplified by the suggestions above, are clear mechanisms that ensure transparency and third party monitoring; and of course awareness and acknowledgement of the conflict of interest position by all concerned.