Govt. undermining SARU… After 20 months, there is no reasonable excuse for the sloth in recovery of stolen state assets – Dr. David Hinds
Jan 06, 2017 , http://www.kaieteurnewsonline....vt-undermining-saru/
By Kiana Wilburg
After careful consideration of the APNU+AFC administration’s actions since it came to power, political activist Dr. David Hinds is convinced that the Government has not moved as aggressively as it ought to, especially as it relates to the recovery of stolen assets.
The Executive Member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) made this comment during a recent interview with Kaieteur News.
Dr. Hinds said that he is miffed with the less than forthright attitude of the government on the issue of corruption and the recovery of stolen state assets.
“The administration started out well by setting up the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), but it undermined the unit by dragging its feet on the legislation to empower the unit.
“Surely, after 20 months, there can be no reasonable excuse for the sloth on a matter that is of major importance to the integrity of the country and to the morale of government’s supporters. The tragedy of this lack of decisive action is that corruption continues even though the government has changed, and many of the corrupt people are still in the system. Corruption in Guyana is a culture whose tentacles spread far and wide.”
Dr. Hinds was adamant that until the authorities act in a decisive and serious manner, both the perpetrators and the society at large would not take their explanations seriously. He emphasised that those who created and presided over the “criminalized State” are more and more, “acting and looking like saints and saviours”.
“Ominously for the government, the accused are now boldly accusing them of corruption. That is why I would not have advised them to move against Red House at this time. If you want to move, do so against a hard target like Pradoville Two. Soft targets like Red House are tempting, but as we have seen over the last few days, it could undermine your cause.”
At SARU’s end, officials there maintain that the desire to take down corruption remains alive. But without legislation, this department of the Ministry of the Presidency remains confined to a straitjacket.
Providing an update on the Bill, SARU’s CEO, Major (Rtd) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer said, “We are of the understanding that plans are still on course for it. But we have done our part.”
He recalled that there were a number of concerns raised by the Private Sector and those were addressed in a most comprehensive manner by SARU Officials.
The Chief Executive Officer said that there were also some concerns expressed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, to the effect that the Bill makes a demand on her to comply with instructions of SARU when it becomes an agency, thereby diluting and compromising the constitutional powers and role of her office.
Heath-Retemeyer said that those fears were abated after further discussions between SARU and the DPP.
With regard to the Bill and the process for its passage in the National Assembly, the SARU CEO said, “When we last spoke to the Attorney General, Basil Williams, we were given the assurance that by early next year (2017) , it would be read in the House.”
He confirmed that the Bill had been with the AG’s Chambers months ago – before October in fact.
Heath-Retemyer said, “It was passed on to his office months ago and we were assured that he had everything that he needed. We were hoping it would have been read since October, but I believe that there were matters that the AG needed to have clarified. This was only communicated to us until recently. We did clarify those and we have the assurance that the Bill should be before the House sometime next (this) year.”
The SARU CEO said that he is concerned with the manner in which the Bill is being handled.
“SARU remains in a straitjacket. And yes, it concerns me, because the longer we wait the more people will think that the government is not serious about addressing asset recovery, or corruption, or those damning forensic audits.”
Be that as it may, Heath-Retemyer said that the Attorney General has told SARU “…that he is not dodging us, but that he is resolute about getting this Bill passed. He had other issues he had to attend to.”
The head of SARU, Dr. Clive Thomas has on numerous occasions, spoken to the importance for attention to be placed on recovering stolen public assets.
He said that the “rampant corruption under the 23-year rule of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) should not be ignored”. Dr. Thomas stated that any new government pursuing good governance would seek to recover the nation’s assets, which were mismanaged in “some of the most despicable and corrupt ways.”
He had said, “A clear line must be drawn against past illicit/corrupt behaviour in order to prevent their future repetition.”