Acknowledging that members of Cabinet ought to comply with the law and declare their assets and liabilities to the Integrity Commission, President David Granger today disclosed that “challenges” have caused a delay in the submission of his 2018 declaration and assured that he is currently working to rectify this.
“I have written to them. I have not submitted all of my declarations. They are taking some time but I am in touch with them and the commission has heard from me,” Granger told reporters when asked if he has filed a declaration.
The Integrity Commission Act sets June 30 of each year for public officials to file a declaration. The Commission within the last six months has published the names hundreds of persons including ministers who have failed to comply. Recently calls were made for the commission to take action against the errant officials.
Ministers were also called out for being allowed to occupy office and carry out their duties as normal although not being in compliance with the law.
Speaking to the reporters moments after accrediting Marichu Mauro as the Ambassador of Philippines to Guyana, Granger stressed that the general rule is “we should all comply. So it’s just a matter of time. Some of the details I think may have taken some members time but I cannot say if all of them are compliant but that is the policy of the cabinet, that every minister should comply.”
Asked if he is not concerned that June 30 has long gone and some of his ministers still have not complied, the president responded in the affirmative.
“Yes I am concerned and as I pointed out …my own declaration is still being prepared and I do not have a reason why others have not been prepared but I have had some challenges over that period of time but I am actually working on it and the commission is aware of my interest in ensuring that they submit it as quickly as possible,” he stressed.
According to the Act, each public official under subsection (I) or (2) “shall give full, true and complete particulars of the assets and liabilities as on the relevant date, and the income during a period of twelve months immediately prior to the relevant date, of the person filling the declaration (whether the assets were held by that person in his own name or in the name of any other person) and of the spouse and children of such person to the extent to which such person has knowledge of the same.”
The Act states that the Commission or the President, as the case may be, shall receive, examine and retain all declarations and documents filed with it or him under the Act; and make such enquiries as it or he considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of the financial affairs, as stated in the declarations of persons who are required to file declarations under the Act.
It states that those officials who fail to submit their declarations or submit declarations that are false or incomplete shall be liable, on summary conviction, to “a fine of twenty-five thousand dollars and to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months nor more than one year, and where the offence involves the non-disclosure, by the declarant, of property, which should have been disclosed in the declaration, the magistrate convicting the person shall order the person to make full disclosure of the property within a given time and on failure to comply with the order of the magistrate within the given time, the said offence shall be deemed to be a continuing offence and the person shall be liable to a further fine of ten thousand dollars for each day on which the offence continues.”
Observers have raised concern that months have passed and the commission is yet to take action.
The first list, which was published in November last year, contained 87 names, inclusive of 15 ministers, the Speaker and opposition Members of Parliament; the second, which was published shortly after, contained the names of 80 defaulting GRA officials; the third, which was published on December 8th, included the names of errant regional officials in all ten administrative regions; the fourth, which was published in January, had 160 names including that of Bank of Guyana Governor General Dr Gobind Ganga, Audit Director (ag) Audrey Badley and councillors from nine of the ten Regional Democratic Councils; the fifth list was published on February 2nd; the sixth in March and it contained 163 names of senior officials of several public entities and the seventh was published last weekend and contained 74 names inclusive of Chairman of the National Procurement & Tender Administration Board, Berkley Wickham, and other Ministry of Finance officials and senior staff at the Guyana Elections Commission.
Parliamentarian Anil Nandall recently said that errant public officials including ministers have been given enough time to file their declaration and he called on the Commission to commence legal proceedings. Nandlall who among those who did not comply but shortly after his name was published (one the first list) he filed his declaration.
“Here you have a flagrant violation of the Integrity Act being committed with impunity and no effort is being made by those who control the Integrity Commission to prosecute these offenders. The Director of Public Prosecutions office should be engaged and advice obtained and persons prosecuted,” Nandlall told this newspaper last week while pointing out that many have failed to capitalise on the second chance given to them and, as such, should be taken to court in keeping with the provisions outlined in the Act.
The Commission’s Chairman Kumar Doraisami has repeatedly complained about the low submission rate despite the publication of names. In December last year, he had given the errant officials two months to comply before legal proceedings commence. He subsequently said that this process would start once a legal/compliance officer was hired. This person was expected to be on the job in March.
According to the commission’s website such a person is on staff.
In a letter published in last Friday’s edition of this newspaper, public relations consultant Kit Nascimento, without naming names, pointed out that very senior people holding important offices including ministers and parliamentarians, have been allowed by government to serve while “ignoring and disobeying the law…”
“All of these offenders continue to act in authority, every day, make decisions every day on our behalf, spend our money and cause us, the ordinary citizens, to conform to the law which they enforce or be prosecuted. We also pay their salaries,” he said.
“I ask, therefore, why should we respect or obey or conform to any decision that these persons who presume to govern our lives make or seek to impose on us, the ordinary citizens, who pay our taxes and obey the law. I ask, have they no sense of civic duty, no conscience?” he questioned before saying that when next he asks people to reelect him, President David Granger should explain why this illegal practice and behaviour is allowed to continue in his government without restraint or restriction or punishment.
Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan has since made it public that he is among the errant ministers. He however reasoned that his non-submission was necessary as he is unsure of his true liabilities to the sum of $82,068,617. This, he explained is as a result of conflicting statements issued to him by his bank, one on January 26, 2017, another in October 2017 and yet another in January 2018.
He said that he has written the relevant officials and is still awaiting a response which will guide him way forward.
There has since been a call from Nascimento for all errant ministers to comply or resign from office.