Friday, March 5, 2010

Government's seriousness about tackling corruption is demonstrated in the maintenance of an independent Auditor General

Ralph Ramkarran: Corruption is wrong and wasteful. It reduces resources available development by unlawfully diverting them from public to private hands, and degrades the moral quality of the society. The Government has taken important steps to deal with it. But as Government expenditures have increased resulting from expanded economic activity and an increasing inflow of funds, so has corruption. The initial steps, having now been entrenched, the time has arrived for further steps to be considered. When the PPP/C Government assumed office in 1992, annual reports by the Auditor General, required by law, had not been presented for ten years. This was unprecedented in the history of Guyana and those responsible for that state of affairs demonstrate no bashfulness in railing against corruption today. An independent authority, the Auditor General, has been able since the advent of the PPP/C to office to judge whether state funds are disbursed in accordance with law or established practice. The Auditor General makes criticisms and recommendations and the Minister of finance is required to respond to these in the National Assembly. He does so, maybe late, but this is a recent development and I have no doubt that as the requirement becomes systematized, so will the punctuality of the Minister’s Statement. There have been criticisms that some recommendations of the Auditor General are not implemented. If these criticisms are justified then they must be dealt with promptly. This can only strengthen accountability and eliminate questions about the Government’s commitment to root out corruption which is already demonstrated in the maintenance of an independent Auditor General who is fearless in giving his opinions. He is often cited by critics of the Government.

The PPP/C Government also established the Integrity Commission under the law passed for the purpose. A wide category of officials are required to submit annual returns of their assets and do so. While there have been some recent legal issues regarding the establishment of the Commission, the legal requirement remains. The time has long past for a review of the law relating to the Integrity Commission. Having got it established and functioning, it became abundantly clear that the Commission needed enforcement powers. For example, some persons covered by the Commission have publicly declared their intention not to submit returns. The failure or lack of capacity of the Commission to take action exposes its weaknesses. The law should be strengthened to give the Commission the power to impose sanctions directly or through police action. For this purpose it needs an investigative arm.Read more....

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