IN HIS maiden New Year’s Message to the Nation as Executive President, in 1993, the late President Cheddi Jagan charged the nation to be “lean, clean and mean” in all its actions.He advised his people that they couldn’t embark on reconstructing Guyana until and unless there is a “higher moral code of behaviour as a society and as individuals….” He called on all to “set their faces sternly against squandermania, bribery, corruption, discrimination in all forms, nepotism, and favouritism”.
He said it is the only way we can “reduce the huge budget deficit left by the former government”.
Reflecting on these wise words from one of the most respected Heads of State that ever ruled Guyana, I fast forward to the state of the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and the lethargy of the powers that be when it comes to its appointment.
Why is the PPC being undermined by the Granger administration when, while on the opposition benches, it was these same people who were shouting at the tops of their voices for establishment of the PPC, and saying how they were going to “fire and fry” the corrupt officials. But, quite hypocritically, these same people, when given the power to act, profess that they are not “a cabinet of angels”.
Isn’t this deep-seated intellectual dishonesty of the highest order?
Financial scandals involving public officials continue to capture the nation’s attention, thanks to some determined investigative journalism by the Kaieteur News and Stabroek News, the bastion of the independent media. The latest being this “lop-sided” stone scam at the airport; and before that, the GECOM procurement skullduggery; and before that, Norton gate, which is still paying that contractor today for services not rendered; and this list is growing, yet no action is forthcoming from the Ministry of the Presidency.
Most of these scandals are as a result of the deteriorating ethical behaviours of public officials, who have indulged themselves into all sorts of malpractices that intensified during the great floods of 2005 during the PPP rule, and never stopped. So when the people saw an older grey-haired gentleman professing “love and unity” and a commitment toward the establishment of the Commission at Whim in March 2015, they said let us give him a try; we cannot get worse than the Donald.
So where is that commitment today? The Commission will contribute to the strengthening of procurement ethics, integrity, transparency, accountability and professionalism in public institutions. The PPC will help protect public resources and enhance public sector performance. But President Granger has to act if the nation is to benefit from any of these bonuses of a democracy. Keeping politicians in the procurement equation will do nothing but embellish corruption in Guyana.
I was so proud of the National Assembly when its members endorsed the names that would form the Commission. The National Assembly did its duty to the nation; the names were sent to President Granger over a month ago, but there has since seemed to be a determined emphasis to bury this Commission by the powers that be in the Ministry of the Presidency.
So there are two important points of this letter: 1. The Granger administration talked financial scrutiny when they were in opposition; but when given the power to act, they have not walked the talk. One only has to review the 2013 Budget speech by the then vibrant leader of the AFC, who has morphed in a proverbial mouse on the issues of integrity and good governance these days.
In 2013, Mr. Ramjattan said that, by not appointing the PPC, the then government was “breaching the Constitution”. But the breach is still alive today in 2016, so where is his voice today?
2. The Bid Protest Committee (BPC) is not a constitutional body but a creature of politicians, and thus it is not independent. The BPC is nothing but a process to castrate the Guyana Constitution. By giving it a life, the Granger administration is attempting to politically influence the procurement system, which is one of the reasons why Guyana is where it is today. And when we think May 2015 made a difference on the act of financial skullduggery, it has not. Actually, the corruption has gotten more pervasive and worse. Many complaints have been lodged with me that one member of this government has already built a mansion on taxpayer’s dollars for one of his secondary paramours by demanding sand, stones, cement and zinc sheets before he takes their contract to the cabinet. So let us not fool ourselves: the concepts of ethics, accountability, transparency, integrity and professionalism in the public service are under a clear and present danger under the Granger administration. There are clear signs of practices and behaviours which perpetuate corruption, conflict of interest and financial malpractices, such as unjustified sole sourcing of goods and services and so on.
It is time for President Granger to wake up and lead on this issue by appointing the Public Procurement Commission.