THERE IS A POLITICAL WILL TO END CORRUPTION
With the election of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government, one should forget about being victimized or fired for speaking out against corruption. Unlike the former administration, speaking out against corruption and scandals will not result in threats to or attempts on one’s life under this new coalition government. Under the former PPP administration, many high-profile personnel were threatened or murdered for doing the right thing-that is speaking out against wrongdoing. The most recent examples were the alleged death threats against the Publisher, Editor and staff of Kaieteur News by the former Attorney General and the murder of political activist Courtney Crum-Ewing. Until recently, there has never been this kind of mafia-style behavior by any government at any point in Guyana’s history. It is something that has been developed during the reign of the former President. Since elected to office on May 11, 2015, the coalition government has ended this type of vindictive and threatening behavior practiced by the former administration. The APNU+AFC Government has done nothing of the sort than to practice good governance and be accountable and transparent with the public. Its goal is to establish effective government institutions such as the Anti-corruption Court, the Procurement Commission and the Integrity Commission, among others, to deal specifically with corruption, but more importantly, to encourage and protect those who expose wrongdoing, including the media and whistleblowers. The Granger and Nagamootoo led coalition government has also established the Asset Recovery Unit to recover stolen state assets by members of the former administration and if necessary to prosecute those caught with stolen state items. This is a far cry from the previous administration which has never prosecuted anyone who was caught in corrupt practices or theft of public property. In fact, they have always denied that corruption exists and have called on the opposition to provide evidence of corrupt practices. The truth is the former PPP administration was in serious denial. The APNU+AFC Coalition Government has recognized that civil society and the private media are crucial to creating and maintaining an atmosphere in public life that discourages corruption. Undeniably, the private media has been the most important element in Guyana to sensitize the public about systemic corruption in public institutions. It is true that a free and independent media is integral to the elimination or reduction of corruption. Without the private media, many corrupt practices in Guyana during the reign of the former administration would have continued unabated until the treasury and the state resources run dry. This has been the experience for the past decade where only a selected few benefited from the state finances and resources. Exposing corruption begins with the whistleblowers, and the private media must play an important role in encouraging them to come forward, whilst guaranteeing the preservation of anonymity. The media has always had a role to at least acknowledge and investigate information from the public and act on it without fear or favour. Whistleblowing occurs when an employee (or anyone else for the matter) raises a concern about wrongdoing, malpractice or corrupt practices in government departments and state agencies or an organization. However, the legal framework in this country is designed to muzzle public individuals and suppress such information. Under the Civil Service Code of Conduct and Secrecy Oaths, a Civil Servant cannot disclose official documents, expose government wrongdoing or openly criticize government policy. During the reign of the last government, Permanent Secretaries were very afraid to speak out against the corrupt practices that they have seen during the past decade or more. Many were threatened with their job security and had to sign non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. Eliminating corruption is the highest priority of the APNU+AFC Coalition Government and it is the first step towards dealing with crime and restoring the tranquility the people once enjoyed in Guyana. The last administration did not have the political will to do it but the APNU+AFC government can in due time.