May 05, 2017 kaieteur
By Kiana Wilburg
From 2013 to now, Guyana has nothing to show for approximately $70M in salary costs alone, to sustain Commissioner of Information, Charles Ramson Snr.
$70M is actually more than enough to cover needed repairs at the East Ruimveldt Secondary School, the Cyril Potter College of Education and Cummings Lodge Secondary School with a few millions left to comfortably pay for much needed road upgrades in the Essequibo Islands.
However, there are no reports laid in the National Assembly to show the work he has done since his appointment. And the government in an attempt to rectify the issue is facing legal action initiated by Ramson.
The matter is one that has left critics asking how soon a more “effective” person can be appointed to the position.
Commentator and political activist, Dr. David Hinds, is one who believes that the Government should investigate this matter with some urgency while still exercising fairness to Ramson.
Dr. Hinds who has ties to the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) said that there are two issues regarding the Commissioner of Information. The first, he said, has to do with the Commissioner’s failure to produce reports as prescribed in the Access to Information Act and the manner in which he has treated with requests for information from the public over the years.
Hinds noted that the second problem has to do with the effectiveness of the office as a democratic medium.
“By refusing to heed requests by the government to present statutory reports of his work, he is in effect thumbing his nose at the administration. This is part of the larger problem government faces with some State functionaries who are loyal to the PPP—these functionaries use their positions to frustrate the smooth operation of the government and to make it look bad. In my view, this is exactly what the current Commissioner, a known and outspoken member of the PPP, seems to be doing,” Hinds opined.
The University Professor said that the Commissioner of Information is a presidential appointment; therefore, if the President is convinced that the officer is not adequately carrying out his functions, he could revoke the appointment.
“If the Commissioner is indeed refusing to produce reports and is not cooperating with the government, then the President should remove him and find someone more suited,” Hinds added.
“My view is that citizens do not know that the office exists and as such cannot take advantage of it. This is not the Commissioner’s fault. The office of the Commissioner is located at his private residence—this is ridiculous. But again, this does not seem to be the Commissioner’s fault.”
The Executive Member of the WPA believes that the president should set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into the matter to determine whether the present Commissioner is undermining the mandate of his office and the extent to which the government itself has sought to make the institution accessible to the public.
The Office of the Commissioner of Information is an important Sate Institution that if properly advertised and staffed, could enhance public accountability, Hinds said.
In addition, he pointed out that too much money is being paid to one person for practically doing nothing. It has been noted in the Parliament that Ramson received about 1.2M in salary along with other benefits.
Up to press time, Ramson still refused to answer any questions from this newspaper, stating that he has “closed the door” on the media outlet’s Editor-In-Chief, Adam Harris, Publisher Glenn Lall and First Vice President and Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo.
The First Vice President who has responsibility for Information has since made it clear his hands are tied on the matter. He said that President David Granger is looking into it. According to Nagamootoo, the matter was sent to the Chambers of the Attorney General, Basil Williams f