The new Integrity Commission must act independently

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to your editorial, “New Integrity Commission” (June 6). As we say, this is long overdue. For more than fifteen months under this administration, there was no oversight of government officials while violations of integrity in public life were rampant. Sex scandals and breaches of contract have not been investigated. Furthermore, only a third of civil servants declared their finances and assets. The ruling party, when in opposition, accused the coalition of all sorts of integrity violations and lack of accountability. But the public behavior of government officials and governance hasn’t been much different since August 2020 than the previous five years or two decades. As we read in your newspaper and other media, there was virtually no transparency in the awarding of contracts. And so it has been for the past two decades.

Over the past year, since the 2021 flood, there has been growing concern over public concerns about corruption. Those who did not deserve compensation were richly rewarded. Since November 2020, cases of corruption have occurred under the discretion and direction of the government. There has been multi-billion dollar government grant spending since November 2020 with very little auditing and accountability. Contemporary corrupt political behavior and culture has impacted Guyana’s international stance on anti-corruption and transparency. Guyana is ranked number 65 out of 165 countries. The Commission needs to settle in quickly and begin its work of investigating complaints of wrongdoing by public servants. Integrity Commissions were created to promote the integrity and accountability of public servants who serve public ministers, presidents, heads of agencies, CEOs, political appointees in ministries, among others.

As the editorial pointed out, the role of the commission is to monitor and investigate and expose corruption in public administration in order to deter acts of corruption. Did he do an effective job? The commission has historically been very weak to carry out its mandate, deprived of resources, as the editorial pointed out and since the appointees were/are political, they tend to carry out the instructions of the political bosses (those who make appointments). The Integrity Commission has been weakened in recent years. No one has been brought to justice; no one has been reprimanded let alone prosecuted for flagrant violations of the Integrity Act. There has been a deficit of public trust in government, worse now than under the previous administration.

There have been no corruption investigations by the commission and none have been successfully prosecuted for fraud. Specifically with respect to the commission, it is rare for a commissioner to have acted independently or taken precedent-setting actions. Reading the media, there have been so many ethical and moral, if not also legal, violations by officials in multiple ministries. It is hoped that this new commission will act with independence and discharge its oversight responsibilities without fear or favour. Foreign diplomats from ABCE countries should also speak out publicly against corruption. This will give the commission the courage to do its job without fear or favour. The commission will not remain silent if the diplomats speak openly.

Sincerely,

Ehsan Carrington

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