KN Jun 10, 2016 News

 By Kiana Wilburg 

Over twenty forensic audit reports have been released by the Government and there has not been a single charge leveled against those who have been implicated in the said reports.

 WPA Executive Member, Dr. David Hinds

While some critics opine that the Government is dragging its feet in this regard, Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Dr. David Hinds believes that the citizenry should exercise a little patience with the “Better Life For All” Administration.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, Dr. Hinds opined, “I cannot believe the government would do nothing about the audits.” He said that Government’s inaction would be a politically suicidal move. “I think they are erring on the side of caution,” he added.
Dr. Hinds said that this is understandable given the PPP’s drumbeat about witch-hunting and the fact that the Coalition would need votes from the PPP’s traditional constituency if it’s going to prevail at the next elections.
But over-caution, the activist said, could eventually lead to inaction and this could cost the Coalition support in its core base. He said that in such an instance, the Government finds itself between a rock and a hard place.
The University professor said that in politics, the first question is always—”How is this going to affect our chances at the poll?”
To this question, Dr. Hinds said that realistically, the government has to weigh this very carefully.
He noted, “Unfortunately, political morality is always very low on the pecking order for governments and political parties. But if little or nothing is done, that will amount to a political victory for the PPP.”
He added, “They could argue that they are vindicated because the government could not pin anything on them. Note, the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo keeps repeating the mantra—if you find corruption charge the people. And former President Donald Ramotar on the other hand keeps saying that the government is going after PPP people.”
Hinds said that whether these two positions are coordinated or not, they amount to a kind of circling of the issue by the PPP, which then pushes the government into a corner.
The WPA Executive Member explained that the other consequence of inaction is the continued institutionalization of corruption. He opined that those involved from top to bottom, in and out of government, would read that as weakness on the part of government.
Dr. Hinds said that he would propose the establishment of an independent Anti-Corruption body to study these audits and recommend the needed action to the President and the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU). He stressed that the Cabinet should not be deciding on the action that should be taken.
Dr. Hinds further asserted that such a body should be broad-based and not overstaffed with lawyers. He said that it should include people of moral standing in the society who are concerned about stamping out public corruption.
Simultaneously, he said that the process of empowering SARU should be high priority. He emphasised that it should be speeded up. Dr. Hinds opined that if that route is taken, it partially frees up the process from overt partisan considerations
While the WPA Executive Member holds this view, Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan said that the Board members of various entities will have the opportunity to decide the course of action that will be taken on the damning findings of the forensic audits launched by the APNU/AFC administration.
Ramjattan recalled that there was a sub-committee which was established to examine the various forensic audit reports. He said that the sub-committee consisted of himself, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams and Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma. The Minister noted that the sub-committee was initially tasked with the responsibility of going through the reports with an aim of determining which deal mainly with administrative irregularities and which enter the realm of criminality.
The Parliamentarian said that the matters of an administrative nature would require disciplinary action against those at fault, while those of a criminal nature will be forwarded to the police for further investigations.
Ramjattan maintained that it would be too burdensome to just hand the reports over to the police only to find that some reports speak only to administrative improprieties.
The Minister said, however, that the Boards of the audited entities will now have a chance to examine the said reports to decide on what will be the outcome. He believes that it is important for the Boards not to be left out of the equation and for them to have a say in what is the way forward on prosecution and administrative decisions that need to be taken.
The Public Security Minister asserted, “I have recommended that all forensic audits reports go to the Board so that they can have a say regarding the forensic audits and determine whether they see prosecution as necessary. We should not exclude the Board even though a sub-committee was given the responsibility to make certain determinations.”
He added, “I have been asked by some of the Boards to look at some of the reports in light of my previous association with criminal law. About four or five I have agreed should go to the police for further investigations.”
Asked to say what those reports are, Ramjattan said he could not reveal that at this point.
It was in May that the Granger-led administration began expending some $133M of taxpayers’ dollars on 45 of the 50 forensic audits to ascertain how the assets of the state were sold, disposed of or transferred under the previous administration.
The remaining five audits were sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Several audits were also launched in July while others started in later weeks. While the report on NICIL has been completed for months now, criminal proceedings are still to take shape. Those on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) have been completed for a longer period.