Thirty persons from key law enforcement agencies will over the next two weeks be exposed to an intensive anti-corruption training programme which, according to Attorney General Basil Williams SC is a part of government’s ongoing efforts to keep corruption away.
“For the fight against corruption to be successful there needs to be effective detection, investigation, analysis of evidence and prosecution of crime, ultimately leading to convictions. It is for these reasons that this course is important”, he said during the opening ceremony of the UK-funded financial investigation and anti-corruption programme which will be facilitated by two UK-based security experts who combined have a total of 60 years’ experience in anti-money laundering and fraud investigations.
Fourteen Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) officers, nine Criminal Investigation Department (CID) fraud ranks, two Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) ranks, one Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) officer and four persons from the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) will benefit from this training which is all part of the planned security sector reform.
In delivering his remarks during the opening ceremony held at the police’s training centre at Eve Leary, Williams pointed out that the training is being held under the spectre of the United States State Department’s latest annual report on narcotics and money-laundering which according to him was “impaling us for our efforts in the fight against money laundering and corruption”. He said that since taking office three years ago the government has been fighting against corruption particularly through the forensic audits of state enterprises which has produced “certain investigations”.
He said that government had declared war on corruption in all its forms and financial crimes were added to the remit of SOCU. He added that the forensic audits initiated by government shortly after taking office have led to many investigations and charges for fraud in relation to state assets. Williams noted that in his most recent report, the Auditor General said that the scale of overpayment by public officials to contractors is “but one of the nefarious devices employed to rob the government of billions of dollars.”
He said that it is recognized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. He stressed that crimes such as bribery, fraud, misappropriation, embezzlement and money laundering, all have dire effects on the economy. Williams said that aside from stymieing economic growth, it depletes resources which results in poverty, poor health care and lack of proper infrastructure and ultimately erodes the moral fabric of society.
The integrity of the government and national security are also adversely affected by corrupt practices while at the political level it weakens good governance as principles such as accountability and transparency become non-existent, he said. According to Williams, corruption deters both foreign and domestic investment as it fosters an inequitable environment for trade and ultimately the country’s economic dynamism will be reduced.
Williams stated that participants will get to understand the bribery landscape including the harm it entails and the legislative framework in place to deal with such offences.
He insisted that “government has been doing its part” by conducting anti-corruption sensitization seminars in the various administrative regions which he said has had a significant impact in cases of misappropriation of state assets. He asserted that since government took office in 2015, there has been no case matching the scale of the ones inherited from the previous administration and revealed by the forensic audits. Observers have noted that very few charges have flowed from the dozens of audits initiated in 2015.
The seminar, he said highlights the important of the SARA Act, the Witness Protection Act and the Whistblower Act. “As we are all aware witnesses and whistleblowers possess the evidence needed to investigate and prosecute offences such as bribery, fraud and corruption”, he stressed.
Irish security export Sam Sittlington who is currently serving an advisor to SOCU said that yesterday’s training programme is very relevant to that entity and the fraud officials taking part in the training.
“Fraud and anti-corruption are fairly similar processes in terms of investigation and coupled with the financial investigation process that you would use in a money laundering case it all becomes relevant when you tie together the delegates here at this particular training programme”, he said.
Sittlington said that the duo facilitating the training have vast experience in fraud and anti-corruption matters. The programme, he said is intense and very practical-oriented and “that I think is necessary for investigators…less time looking at power point and getting stuck in looking at documents, looking at processes of fraud and anti-corruption and trying to work out how you solve those and how you get them into a state where you take them to court and that’s what is most important here for measurement of Guyana for fraud, corruption and also particularly money laundering”.