Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister Gail Teixeira is calling on all those who claim that there is widespread corruption in the Government to do the work and present the evidence to support their allegations.
She made this remark on Wednesday during her Ministry’s closing press conference for 2023, where she was asked to respond to the Opposition’s corruption accusations.
Both the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) have levelled allegations of corrupt acts in the Government.However, Minister Teixeira underscored the importance of having evidence to support such claims.
“I can shout corruption as much as I want, but I must have evidence. I must have proof… So, one has to recognise your responsibility as a citizen, if you feel that there is wrongdoings going on, to do your work and to get it into the right forums. Not just shout from the rooftops to get it in the media, because when you do that all it is doing is creating an impression which may or may not be right. And maybe that’s the intention in the first place…”
“[But] facts, facts, facts. It is important to have facts and so, whoever is crying – whether the Opposition or anybody else – get your facts lined up and go to the correct bodies to bring your cases,” the Minister contended.
According to Teixeira, there are a host of constitutional bodies that have been set up to deal with such matters and complaints. These include the Public Procurement Commission (PPC); the Auditor General Office; the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and even the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
In fact, she reminded that while the People’s Progressive Party was in Opposition, it used the very framework that is currently in place to bring certain corrupt acts of the then Government to the fore.
One such matter, she highlighted, was the controversial sole-sourcing of a consultancy contract for the new Demerara Harbour Bridge.
Back in 2018, a contract was awarded to Dutch company LievenseCSO for a feasibility study into the new bridge. A probe conducted by the PPC, upon request of the PPP through Teixeira, had flagged then Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson for requesting from Cabinet that the $148 million contract be sole-sourced instead of being processed through the Procurement Board as the law says should be done.
“I documented what I had found. So, I just didn’t just go and say there is corruption… The PPC said the Minister and Cabinet acted unlawfully in awarding an unsolicited tender which the Cabinet had no authority to do under the Constitution and the Procurement Act,” Teixeira reminded.
She went on to note too that after no further action was taken based on that PPC’s findings, she went to the Police and filed a case through the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) – the arm of the GPF which deals with white-collar crime. However, the matter was not dealt with by SOCU until 2020.
Patterson and the former Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) General Manager Rawlston Adams were eventually jointly charged and placed before the court in January 2021 for conspiracy to defraud. That matter is still pending in the court.
“The process of calling for corruption is not one that is just shouting from the rooftops, it’s work… And so, I can say very, very clearly, as a member of the Opposition, I use that same framework that exists today in 2020 that has not changed between 2020 to now…
“So, if anybody feels that there is corruption and anybody has a scintilla of evidence, they should use the mechanisms that are available to bring their cases forward. You don’t win every case, there were cases that we brought with the PPC that got shut down… So, you have to recognise that constitutional bodies will make their recommendations based upon their laws, their constitution and what they think is best. You may not always agree with it and one can also always, as a citizen, go to the court; that is your right to do that,” the Minister noted.
Nevertheless, Teixeira pointed out that the Guyana Government was committed to transparency and accountability and has put an anti-corruption framework in place. This includes the establishment of a National Coordinating Committee (NCC) as part of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption – both of which Guyana has signed onto.
The NCC, which is headed by Teixeira, comprises 17 state agencies that look at anti-corruption methodologies, laws and international best practices as well as recommendations by the conventions to strengthen Guyana’s anti-corruption framework.