THE newspapers (Sunday, September 6, 2015), carried reports of comments made by former President Donald Ramotar, with regard to statements made by the present government, accusing his previous government of paying employees government salaries while in the employ of Dr. Cheddi Jagan Research Centre, and only collecting $1000 as payment for a lease of that facility, among other things.
Former President Ramotar, in his comments, trivialised the whole affair and mentioned that his government did give a 5-acre lot to the late former Vice-President, Viola Burnham, which she, in turn, sold. President Ramotar failed to see what the big fuss was about, since his actions were ‘normal’ practice.
Before I continue, let me preface this article with a personal incident, which occurred some ten years ago. As a re-migrant, a decade ago, wanting to create a business venture, which I felt would play a vital role in improving tourism to Guyana, (I had written ‘Letters’ in the past, on the need for a vibrant tourist trade as a better solution to improving manufacturing and creating jobs, as opposed to cutting down the Rain Forest, or digging up its soil) I started a non-profit company and sought out those government and private agencies which I felt could financially assist the company. I contacted a prominent director of a very important agency of whom I felt our work would favourably contribute. Having given him a Grant Proposal, I was told he would get in contact with me in two weeks. Four months later, after much trying and failing, I finally met him at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, where I was one of the Guest Lecturers at a Symposium.
“Hey, budday, we ain’t in the United States here, man. Don’t give me no Grant Proposal. Who gat time fo dat? Write me a note about what you want and hand it to dem girl in the office and I’ll get back to you,” he said.
So I wrote a half-page request and gave it to his assistant. After six months of not hearing from the good Director, (and not for the want of trying), I gave up.
What I am trying to show here is the modus operandi, the manner in which business was done. The important underlying thread here, which can be easily overlooked, is the manner in which things are done. Monies are given out to groups, agencies and individuals, who, to all intents and purposes, may have a very legitimate and honest plan, which on execution had borne positive results. I saw President Jagdeo, practically played the role of Foreman in supervising the constructing of a medical clinic on Cemetery Road, in La Penitence Housing Scheme. He refused to go through the channels of Red Tape, so to speak, after residents complained of the desperate need for a clinic. Was politics involved? Maybe.
But there are many instances, too much for me to mention, that governments past and present can be accused of doling out the taxpayers money without having/showing proper accounting.
What is there to be done? Are all of these actions ‘High Crimes’, or can some of them be considered ‘Misdemeanors’?
I do not like to criticise without offering some objective and constructive solution(s) to problems:
1. President Granger and former President Jagdeo deciding which actions of governments in the past, and maybe even present, can be considered more unethical, due to the lack of knowledge of better business practices, just to be kind, and creating a comprehensive list of them.
2. In the Forms section of the Government’s web site, add a two-part Grant Proposal Form – The Grant Proposal is page one, and an Evaluation after the money is spent, on page two.
3. All agencies or individuals who have received monies from the government in some mutually agreed period of time, between Government and Opposition, will be required to fill out a Grant Proposal, which states: How much money is needed. Why is it needed. How is it going to be spent. What materials/labour involved. Pre-evaluate if it will be money well-spent. The Evaluation Page – page two – would describe the success or failure of whatever the money was spent on – this will be completed later, and can be referenced for future projects.
4. Some section of an appropriate agency can be responsible for examining, collating and e-filing same, for future references.
5. All future request for government funding would have to go through this process. These forms can be filled out online at some legal services store, for a fee of course, or from the government providing assistance, or by some astute UG freshman.
I believe that this action would go a long way towards social cohesion. Also certainly remove a lot of time-wasting and money being spent not too constructively.
It must be noted that those activities, which can be construed as High Crimes, can now gain the full attention of the appropriate agencies and Court of Law.
ALBERT R. CUMBERBATCH, Ph.D