Timeliness or Similarity between Privatisation and Private Enterprises2307 13 Jun, 2012
Mr. Scott: I heard the Prime Minister in his presentation in which he was boasting about the fact that the party or the Government is no longer socialist but has moved onto the level of privatisation. Private businesses, which are privatised, one may know that they have the practice of transparency and timely reports. This motion, which we have here, deals with not having timely reports and that is why we are asking that it now takes place. So, the Prime Minister’s position about timeliness or similarity between privatisation and private enterprises and this Government’s reports is not really in sync.
Under the ex-President Jagdeo and in the early months of the new President, the PPP Government called the Opposition many names. It called the Opposition Members as being malicious exaggerators and all other kinds of names. Now that the Parliament has the more oversight over the nation’s monitoring of Government’s spending and the economic behaviour the chickens are coming home to roost. From NICIL to National Communications Network (NCN), we now seem to have substantive evidence of corruption and there is more to follow. Leaders who were tasked with the responsibility of managing the resources of a nation are required to do so with transparency, full accountability and honesty. It is the trust of an entire nation that they are dealing with. To use their required skills to enrich their families, friends and themselves, it is to engage in economic sabotage of an entire country. For every dollar stolen a child dies.
Countries around the world deal with corruption in different ways. China deals with vagabonds and anti-nationalists by executing them. We recall the businessmen and the businesswomen who sold the contaminated milk; they were executed. Kaieteur News reported, in its 8th of June, 2012 edition, of a similar sentence that was carried out on a functionary who had taken bribes. In Bangladesh, an ex-Prime Minister’s son was jailed for bribery. Other countries have effective anti–corruption measures that derail temptation through very effective anti–corruption measures. One of the editorials I read stated: “Corruption occurs in all countries, rich or poor, but thrives in environments where checks on those entrusted in powers are loose.” Civil society is poorly represented and poverty is entrenched, and inequalities are vast. We, in Guyana, have not yet prosecuted anyone for economic crimes although our international rating for corruptions and lack of transparency is indeed poor. Our laws require much vigour and speed of prosecution.
Transparency International has re-listed Guyana at one hundred and thirty-four out of one hundred and eighty-three countries in a survey for corruption. In this survey our score is 2.5 out of ten - a definite “F”. Her father watches a child dies because he cannot afford to pay for overpriced drugs. Her mother sees her malnourished child wasted away before her eyes because she can only look at the goods in the grocery but cannot afford to buy. At some point they make the connection between their suffering and the lavish swimming pool lifestyle of those who are encouragingly corrupt. This is when the rule of law takes on a different connotation as happened in Biafra during Nigeria’s civil war, when Government Ministers fled.
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of Order, under Standing Order 41, I think Mr. Scott has a right to his opinion, but that is not the motion he is speaking to. The motion is on “National Assets” and not on what he thinks is corruption. Maybe it is for another motion that is being drafted by Mr. Greenidge to come later on, but it is not this motion.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member Mr. Scott, I did note the content of the motion and the resolved clauses and, I believe, that while they did not specifically mention corruption, it is an inescapable feature. However, I would ask you to speak to the motion before us. You may need to focus on the motion and the resolved clauses a bit more.
Mr. Scott: I would like to point out, at this point of time, that number two of the WHEREAS clause, Mr. Greenidge addressed “…lack of transparency and accountability associated with the disposal of assets”. If we were to use another word for lack of accountability for the disposal of assets, we can very well end up with the use of the word “corruption.” What I am showing, Sir, is not necessarily a waiver in the motion; it is just that I was showing where people have transgressed in Biafra and where societies had undergone changes because of the transgression of Government. I am merely building on…, and if perhaps, Sir, you would allow me two seconds to finish the point I was making I think even Madam Teixeira would understand. [Mr. Benn: Biafra was a session.] I was not finished with Biafra, so if Madam Teixeira would… [Mr. Benn: It is my object to the use of Biafra.] Well, then you have to stand up.
Mr. Speaker: What is that? Sorry. There is a speaker who is sitting and I have ruled that you can proceed. I do not know that any Member has the right to object to you speaking, but I do wish you to proceed...
Mr. Scott: Okay Sir. As it has happened also in Latin America where oligarchs stole their way to eighty per cent of the resources of land, the bottom ten per cent of those countries, as Cuba, Nicaragua and Peru, turned into revolutionary countries to ascertain the rights of the dispossessed to a fair share of the pie. This is the point; we do not want that to happen here, Sir. We want fairness of distribution and that is the point I was trying to make. That is why today this motion seeks to bring some measures of accountability and redress, and, if adopted, will engage the people in the process of not only accounting for the assets, but also begin the reclamation of misappropriated assets, and in this process we will see justice served to all.
NICIL and the Privatisation Unit are the agencies that control the vesting of the state’s assets which have been privatised and that will, in the future, still be privatised. They, on our behalf, have various levels of interest in a number of state businesses, for example, GUYOIL, NCN and others. They are the stewards of the people. These assets are owned by the people of Guyana. It is our contention that all assets, in whatever form they take, that are being managed by NICIL, must have regular reports made to this National Assembly. We are here for that reason.
NICIL was incorporated in 1991, with the Government of Guyana being the sole owner. NICIL and the Privatisation Unit are the vesting authority that works on our behalf. Billions of dollars are channelled through their accounts for onward transmission to be deposited into the Consolidated Fund. It is therefore clear that these assets, moneys and concessions, are received, invested and retained on behalf of the people of Guyana. Since ownership belongs to the people, it is the legal responsibility of those tasked with the management of this entity to submit full annual reports and accounts to the people’s representatives in the National Assembly, according to the law. In this year 2012, such reports were last submitted for 2004. I am told, unofficially, that reports of 2006 will soon be submitted. I have not seen them.
What, Sir, can be responsible for this gross dereliction of duty by responsible leaders? Why there is no statements to the National Assembly about the absent of reports from 2007 to 2012? Can such arrogance, and contempt for Guyanese, exceed itself? Is the Minister of Finance satisfied with this stage of non-compliance when section 48 of the Public Corporation Act requires NCIL to keep its accounts to its satisfaction and that these accounts must be audited? It is this neglect for timely audits that has allowed functionaries of NCN to be engaged in rascality and internal….
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member, I would ask you to withdraw that …
Mr. Scott: …alleged rascality.
Mr. Speaker: I would ask that you withdraw it. I do not think there have been any findings or fact on any of …
Mr. Scott: I would withdraw that part, Sir. It is for this lack of timely reporting and investigation that has caused us to have to look twice at the workings of NCN. An internal investigation into the missing funds now dominates the front pages of the press. Some middle level functionaries are sent on leave, but we are weary of internal investigations at this eleven hour. We need an independent investigation into the apparent financial irregularities there. This further highlights the need for timely audits. We fear that the cancer of corruption will be revealed by the corporations that operate under the aegis of NICIL. In such an environment of non–accountability of the country’s assets, would you be surprised, Sir, that the sale of land at Ruimveldt, Linden and at GuySuCo locations was executed without the publishing of sales prices? We in the National Assembly, and by extension the people, need to know the official valuation for each plot of land and why the sales prices were not placed into the people’s account, into the Consolidated Fund, as required by article 216 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana.
Where, Sir, are these huge sums hidden? A full report is now demanded. NICIL has not given us up to date accounting for its stewardship, but, yet, it proposes to invest $4 billion in the questionable Marriot Hotel project. How can it spend so freely, but is tardy in reporting to the owners of the state of this company? We are demanding a full report on the disposal of all the state’s assets, the terms of disposal and the criteria used. We are further supporting the call for the urgent commissioning of an independent forensic audit of all the operations of NICIL and the Privatisation Unit. All contracts awarded by the tender board are to be placed before this Assembly for review as demanded by this motion.
Sir, the citizens are demanding a full account from these managers and we promised all Guyanese that we would go after these assets, whatever and wherever they are sequestered. I urge therefore, with this aim in mind, full support for this motion.
I thank you. [Applause]
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