Articles such as `Minister Sharma laments SOCU sloth’ in SN (2018-07-23) and, `Sharma annoyed by SOCU’s performance with forensic audits’ in GC of 2018-07-17 are the latest in about two years of weekly and sometimes daily haranguing declarations and denouncements by many members of our Cabinet and Government members in Parliament, committing to jail the members and administrators of the past PPP/C administration. There has been no lacking in expressions of determination and from time to time, as little if any progress is evident, we have had glimpses of the contentious blame-game between the various actors: Honourable Ministers, the Guyana Police Force, SOCU, SARA, the Police Legal Adviser, the Overseas Expert Adviser, the DPP and anyone on whom some blame could be hung, for the seeming lack of progress with the touted charges.
This lament, the expressions of dissatisfaction and annoyance, the blame game, altogether would prompt experienced persons to wonder whether a number of the actors are not beginning to question how much substance there may be in these allegations of corruption, whether in the passion in the aftermath of our 2015 elections, mountains were not being made of molehills in the forensic audits. But no one wants to blow the whistle, no one wants to bell the cat!
Editor, perhaps it is time that Honourable Minister Sharma opens his mind to the possibility that really there are no criminal cases of any substance, to be made. And so too, perhaps, should all of us, Guyanese, open our minds. As former President Donald Ramotar allowed very early, we all being only humans and Guyanese at that, some level and instances of corruption were likely (suspicious cases would need to be investigated) but the allegations of corruption of a hundred billion dollars each year (about half of our national budget) against PPP/C Ministers and Administrators were grossly, grossly exaggerated.
It is time that we recognize that these wild corruption charges took root in the context of intensely adversarial political contest (PPP/C going it alone as a minority Government after our 2011 elections) and fundamental differences in the policies and attitudes to inculcate and nurture development of our people and country. There was intense frustration and anger amongst then Opposition members and supporters when, after the Opposition passed a motion in Parliament forbidding the expenditure of Government/Consolidated Fund money on the Marriott, we PPP/C, found a legal and legitimate way to complete a first phase of the Marriott Hotel Project, utilizing money obtained from the sale of shares in GTT, all transactions falling within the umbrella of the Privatisation Unit (PU)/NICIL group. Would we Guyanese and Guyana have been better off if the Marriott had been abandoned half built, somewhat like the intended Cacique hotel aback of the Ramada Georgetown Princess at Providence?
Editor, the charges laid against my colleagues the former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, and the former CEO of PU/NICIL, Mr. Winston Brassington, are nothing but clutching at straws. There is no allegation of any money reaching their or any other pockets – none did. They carried out in a lawful manner, legitimate decisions of our PPP/C Government. The development of Guyana and Guyanese all together has been our purpose and our driving force and in the pursuit of which we exercised even-handedly and openly the judgement and discretion that were lawfully and legitimately within our authority.
There have been adverse criticisms of our entry into direct negotiations with Mr. Gerry Gouveia and sale to him of adjacent properties for extension of his hotel and hospitality business: we had done similarly and somewhat earlier with Mr. Michael George for the expansion of his Herdmanston hotel. The unit selling price of land to MovieTowne seems to occasion another of the recent charges of malfeasance but the sale of land in the same area to Giftland was at a somewhat lower unit price; and the sale of land in the same area to Mr. Boyer (another malfeasance case) for a middle to upper end housing development was by open bid which he won and at a price above our minimum required price. I can express the assurance that we, PPP/C, were in no way less warm and encouraging to Mr. Beepat through his much-extended construction period and as he sought allocation and/or a say in the use of adjacent land in a way which would have enhanced and not detract from his project. I recall happily touring the construction site at least twice with him and freely expressing my appreciation of his determination to bring a new upgraded shopping experience to Guyana and his fellow Guyanese.
Editor, there are three reasons for me to state again my concern and consequent call on our Government to put aside as soon as we could those unfounded grossly, grossly exaggerated allegations of huge corruption.
Firstly, as I see it, our Government seemingly believing its own propaganda has been misdirecting itself. How else can I think of their unquestioning rush on entering office to greatly raise their own levels of pay (as if billions of dollars were to appear) but later extending to our public servants much less than they had promised them, pleading that after their increases to themselves, it became evident that there was not enough money to provide rank and file public servants with the increases they had promised them! Further, the about fifty corrupt scandals that we PPP/C have documented during the three years of our Coalition Government, seem to suggest that our Coalition Government relying on their allegations of huge PPP/C corruption have been behaving as if they had licence to do as they pleased. How else can we understand the transactions of the drug bond and the perverse frustration of the notice to end that lease early. Again, they have tainted appropriate approaches to our taking responsibility for our development, such as the Berbice Bridge as well as the key development Agency – NICIL – created by the PNC in mid 1980s on returning to Private Sector-led development. We can recall the different positions and ambiguities on the continued existence and role for NICIL which do not augur well for its successful operation.
Secondly, until our Government can resolve and clarify these grossly exaggerated allegations of corruption, there would be so much smoke and confusion around, our country would be set for real corruption – a real concern with the prospects of huge flows of money from oil.
Thirdly, without an earnest resolution of those corruption allegations, the prospects for a less acrimonious, more constructive relationship between us, PPP/C, and the Coalition, are slim even as we PPP/C persevere in that desire and concur with former President Carter’s recent call for such. It is pertinent to recall here the conciliating suggestion some time ago, from our much maligned Leader of the Opposition, that our Coalition Government retain an external, agreed, hopefully impartial accounting group to review those forensic audits so that together as a nation we could conclusively deal with them in a timely way and get them off the table, removing that major distraction from the development of people and country which should be our common bonding concern.
Samuel A. A. Hinds
Former Prime Minister and