As parties gear up to contest next year’s General and Regional Elections in about two months’ time, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has outlined plans that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will implement to tackle corruption in Government if it wins the upcoming polls.
Jagdeo pointed out that leading up to the 2015 elections, which ousted the PPP from office after 23 years, the APNU/AFC coalition played on the perception that the then Government was corrupt. However, he pointed out that after nearly five years in office, the governing coalition has failed to present any concrete evidence to prove this.
As such, going into the March 2, 2020 polls, the Opposition Leader said the PPP has to tackle such issues frontally. This includes outlining a clear plan of how it intends to uphold transparency and accountability in office.
Among these efforts, he noted, is full reinstatement of the Integrity Commission. Jagdeo explained that despite persons in high public office being obligated to submit their declarations to the Commission, the coalition stopped this for three years.
“We made it clear that we will ensure that we not only make submissions going forward but that [the coalition] also submit for those three years. So resumption of the Integrity Commission and strengthening the body,” he posited.
Jagdeo, a former President, went on to outline too that the incumbent Administration has also managed to violate the country’s procurement laws – something they will have to correct as well.
“I’ve given one example where the law is explicit on approval of contract. [They] moved away from that explicit position that Cabinet should not approve contract, must only give a ‘no objection’ and if it withholds the ‘no objection’, it has to why and write the Tender Board. This Government has violated all of the procurement laws. We intend to return to upholding the procurement laws,” he stressed.
The Opposition Leader further noted that another area that the PPP will have to work on reversing doings of the governing coalition is the processing of duty-free concessions.
“This Government has resumed ministerial processing of duty-free concessions. In the last budget, [Finance Minister Winston] Jordan passed a legislation that says you can now go to him and he can wavier the VAT or penalty associated with VAT – that never happened under the PPP. We removed the right the process concessions. When I was Finance Minister at that time, we inherited a system where the Minister used to sign the duty-free letter. We changed that and we said GRA (Guyana Revenue Authority) must process it.”
According to Jagdeo, this is all enshrined in the laws. “… They wanted ministerial processing but we will return to technical processing,” he contended.
He continued to point out that the PPP had published every privatisation done between 1992 and 2011 in a booklet, outlining details of those transactions, but under the coalition, many state assets are being privatised even without a Privatisation Board.
“We had the [Privatisation] Unit and then it goes to the Board, which used to have three members from civil society – labour, Private Sector and consumer affairs… Now NICIL (National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited) makes all the decision. We used to use Unit-Board-Cabinet… we have to return to that with oversight of privatisation and publication of these transactions,” Jagdeo stated.
As Guyana is now on the cusp of transformational development from its budding oil and gas industry, the Opposition Leader underscored the importance, now more than ever, of ensuring transparency and accountability in the sector. To this end, he reiterated plans by the PPP to ensure that all Guyanese are made aware of every dollar that comes in from the sector as well as the party’s intention to criminalise non-disclosure of oil money.
According to the PPP plans, its Finance Minister can be jailed for up to 10 years if he or she fails to reveal information of monies collected from oil companies within a short period and gazette.
Moreover, also among the plans on PPP’s anti-corruption list are the passage of campaign financing legislation as well as making access to information easier for the Guyanese public.
“There are hundreds of things that we need to do or we can do to strength or even go back to what we had before… Those are just some of the ways you can strengthen accountability,” Jagdeo asserted.