The Integrity Commission Act3479 14 Jun, 2012
Leader of the Opposition [Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger]: Colleagues, fellow Members of this House, it should be a great disappointment to all of us that twenty-one years after the first Integrity Act was passed we should be at this state. Has there been a lack of sincerity? Has there been a lack of seriousness? Has there been a lack of a sense of urgency and a sense of duty to our people? If so, this Tenth Parliament must turn the corner and leave, for the Guyanese people, a working, a functional Integrity Commission and a valid Integrity Commission Act. Over the years, particularly over the last fifteen years, the debate over the Integrity Act has been punctuated by threats, sometimes by blusters and sometimes by coercion. I do not know if it is because of the rainy season, but it has come again, and I think the Prime Minister has played this role before.
I am sure that the Hon. Prime Minister would remember that a few years ago he introduced a similar motion in this House. I am sure he would remember too that threats were made for the publication of declarations and even for the police to be brought in against Members of this honourable House who failed to comply. In fact, the leader of one of the opposition parties at that time, three years ago, said the words, and I quote, this is, of course, in response to the person who threatened prosecution to Members of this noble House, “Nowhere in the free world could the head of the executive branch issue ultimatums, threaten and initiate criminal actions against Members of the legislature”. I see it brought a smile to your lips, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Those were my words.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: Those were your words. You said it, that those were your words. Here we are, again, in this annual cycle. As my learned colleague Mrs. Deborah Backer mentioned, it started with the letter from Mrs. Amanda Jaisingh, on the 2nd May, demanding compliance with the declarations of assets to a non-existent entity. The Hon. Prime Minister’s motion, and many of the speeches this evening, focuses on the publication of names, focuses on the punishments and focuses on declarations. I would like to follow the line taken by my learned friend from the Alliance For Change, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, because I do not believe that the fault lies within this House, in the legislative branch. If we are looking for corruption we must look at the mother of all scandals; we must look in the executive branch. How much corruption could these poor people on the western side of the House be capable of? When we speak of corruption we speak of corruption on the industrial scale, as my colleague tends to speak – industrial scale corruption - we have to look not at the legislative branch. That is the wrong place, calling on Members Parliament to declare their assets.
The goal of the Integrity Commission should be to enhance public confidence in the public institutions and in the integrity of public officials. When we are looking for corruption we must look for people who are involved in the massive bogus procurement of pharmaceuticals, awarding phoney contracts; we must look at Government Ministries which, soon before they are audited, are burnt, destroying official records, burning evidence.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, I do believe that is conjectural. Unless there has been an actual finding of arson and a direct link between an investigation and a fire, I think it would be unwise for us to go there.
Brigadier (Ret’d) Granger: It would be unwise that there is no evidence, but I am prepared to provide that evidence, that at the time that a certain Ministry was about to be audited there was fire, and fires have contributed to the damages and the destruction of records in other Ministries over the years. I can provide evidence of the damage done to public records by arson over the years.
When we speak of corruption let us look not at the declarations of the Members of Parliament, but let us look at the Code of Conduct in Schedule II of the Integrity Act. There are ten clauses here, like the Ten Commandments. Let us look at the possibilities for bribery, the possibilities of embezzlement and the possibilities for the large-scale diversions of equipment to empolder private farms. Let us look at the concept for ministerial responsibility, where massive breaches of the law cannot be covered up; let us look at decimation and employment; let us look at the misuse of document, the misuse of ministerial letter heads for the ordering of strange equipment; let us look at the misuse of state property; let us look at conflict of interest, and let us look at aiding and abetting in procuring the commission of crimes, all of these things are mentioned in the Code of Conduct. This is where our attention must focus. Much of the debate is about declaration from Member of Parliament one or Member of Parliament two, but let us look at the industrial-scale corruption which takes place within the executive branch, not here in this House.
I call on this honourable House to call on the executive branch to establish a fully fledged Commission, a properly constituted Commission. I call on this House to call on the executive branch to provide such a Commission with the investigative capability. We do not want secretaries writing to us, again, asking for declarations. We want to know that when this Act is fully implemented and ordinary citizens make complaints that that Commission will investigate those complaints and take their charges to the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP); it is not to publish their names in the Gazette. This is serious business. The economy of this country is being undermined by corruption. We want to see, apart from the noises heard, the enforcement of a Code of Conduct and it is here, but people are not speaking about it. All they are speaking about is the declaration. We want the Commission to bring this annual ritual…
Twenty- one years we came here and talked, but nobody is doing the walk. Nobody is enforcing the Commission, as it should be enforced, because it is not properly staffed; it is not funded; it is not properly equipped, and we must bring this to an end. Tonight should be the last night that we debate whether we should have an Integrity Commission. That is why I support the amendment proposed by my colleague Mrs. Deborah Backer; I support the line of argument taken by my colleague Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, and we must bring this annual ritual to an end.
Thank you. [Applause]
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