Govt wants greater accountability; will not defend procurement fraud, scandals – VP

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has made it clear that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is serious about its plans to review the entire public procurement system, saying that it will not be defensive about fraud or corruption scandals.

Last week, it was announced that Government would be reviewing all public procurement systems countrywide in a bid to clamp down on corrupt practices. At the time, Jagdeo had warned persons, especially state employees, that they would face the consequences if they got caught in any corruption.

Since that announcement, however, there have been criticisms on whether Government is serious about this review process.

During his press conference this week, the Vice President made it clear the review would be done at every single level in the Government to ensure compliance with the procurement law and that people are treated fairly.

“Let me tell you that we’re dead serious about this matter …because when a Government in office they have a tunnel vision and they are impervious to anything that could go wrong. They try to be defensive. We’re not going to be defensive on procurement frauds or scandals. We’re not gonna be defensive, because the objective of our government is to ensure that more people get more opportunities through the procurement system and it’s done cleanly.

“So, I’ve made it clear, we’re not gonna lay our heads under any blocks for people who rip off the citizens of this country… We want make sure that we address the flaws, because we believe it fits in with our ideals and goals, and it will also help our country…,” he posited during Thursday’s press conference.

Recalling the many procurement transgressions and fraud scandals under the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition regime, Jagdeo pointed out that the scrutiny was much more magnified under the PPP/C Government.

“With the PPP, we have to be extra careful about this… Let me put it bluntly, corruption under the PPP could be 10 per cent of what took place under APNU, but the media will make it look like a hundred times or 10 times more, and we’ve seen this before… They will magnify it… They minimise what took place under APNU and blow out of proportion what takes place under this government,” he stated.

According to the Vice President, while the procurement landscape has drastically changed in Guyana with scores of projects being undertaken on a daily basis, the PPP/C Administration is committed to ensuring accountability.

“We need to make sure that we do what we have to do to ensure that if we can’t eliminate the corruption, because it’s thousands of contracts every day adjudicated at different levels – regional level, department level, ministerial level and then at the National [Procurement and Tender Administration] Board – that we ensure this [procurement review] is done.“We’re serious about ensuring greater accountability in this country. We’ve put in place the measures to ensure that that would happen, not just in the oil and gas sector but in every sector. And, we’re busy working for the people who matter – the people of this country,” the VP noted.

In addition to weeding out corruption within the public procurement system, another issue the Government will be seeking to address during this review process is the delay in processing payments for contractors who have completed their respective jobs.

Already, Cabinet Ministers have been informed about this review and were instructed to ensure that their respective procurement systems as well as payment systems are examined.

Last week, VP Jagdeo had noted that during this review process, there could be sting operations set up to detect corruption in the public sector.

“You will have sting operations too. So, I’m forewarning them. If you’re engaged in these [corrupt] practices and you get caught, don’t come later and complain… If you get caught, you face the consequences!”