Corruption laws to cover officers in revenue agencies

By Sharief Khan
Guyana Chronicle
December 14, 1999

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo is moving for law changes against corruption by officers in revenue agencies.

He also announced in Miami that he would be changing some Regional Executive Officers in the regional government system, shortly after he returned here, in his declared drive to wipe out corruption and ensure transparency in state departments.

Wrapping up a successful week in Miami which United States Ambassador to Guyana, Mr James Mack said saw some "good contacts" forged, Mr Jagdeo told a dinner Friday he was moving to widen anti-corruption laws.

He announced that he would be asking Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Anglican Bishop Randolph George, to work with the government to amend the legislation "so that all officers in the revenue agencies would have to also focus on providing their assets and income" to the body.

Government ministers and other senior state officials are required by law to declare their assets and income to the commission and the President said all the ministers have complied with the legislation.

His firm stand on rooting out corruption in official circles brought applause from the mainly Guyanese resident in Florida at the dinner at the Hilton hotel, near the Miami International airport.

Among guests was former Guyanese and West Indian cricketer Lance Gibbs, who now lives in Florida.

President Jagdeo reiterated that he intends to "get rid of this (corruption) problem...and everyone in my government would have to conduct their business transparently or they would not have a part in the government."

As he has done several times here since assuming the presidency in August this year, Mr Jagdeo stressed at his speaking engagements in Miami last week that he was focussing on transparency in government.

"I intend to ensure that all people in public office (declare their assets)...because we have had a history of a lack of transparency and some corruption in government services...", he declared.

Another key plank in the President's platform in Miami was the drive for more foreign investment here and he used to full advantage the opportunities presented at the 23rd annual Miami conference on the Caribbean and Latin America, organised by the Washington-based Caribbean/Latin America Action (CLAA) group.

The Friday dinner capped a day that saw the Guyanese leader breaking new ground at the Miami conference.

At the plenary luncheon at the Hotel Inter-Continental conference venue, he put aside the text of his prepared speech, which aides had worked on until early that morning, and declared that he was in Miami to do business and opened himself to questions from delegates after his extemporaneous delivery.

Ambassador Mack (recognised as an `honorary Guyanese' by other members of the local delegation there), acknowledged the President's style was not without risk but warmly welcomed it, as did hundreds of others at the luncheon.

Mr Jagdeo presented himself "extremely well" to the CLAA conference, Mack told the Chronicle.

"He showed his openness, his flexibility and his willingness to take some risks because he really got out of the box when he gave his (lunch) talk extemporaneously, unlike the other (country leaders at the conference)", the U.S. Ambassador said.

Noting that the President opened up the forum for questions afterwards, Mack said "he was very refreshing in his answers".

He said the President made some "very good contacts" for Guyana and his participation in the Miami conference was "time very, very well spent".

"I am very hopeful", Mack reflected on the Miami visit.

Among leaders Mr Jagdeo met at the Miami conference was President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic.

He also discussed closer ties with the Secretary of State for Florida, Katherine Harris and extended an invitation for her to visit Guyana to follow through the proposals.

The thrust for foreign investment has to be a government-private sector partnership, he stressed during the visit and this was reflected in the strong local business representation in the delegation.

Among private sector delegation members were head of the Private Sector Commission, Mr George Jardim, leading businessman, Mr Yesu Persaud, Chairman of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Mr Vic Ouditt, head of Texaco (Guyana/Suriname), Mr Steve Bostick, top executives of the Barama logging company, Mr James Keelan and Mr S.K. Chan, Mr Cornelius Pryor, Chairman of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company and its parent firm, ATN and head of the Omai gold mining company, Mr Rejean Gourde and several of his top executives.

The Friday dinner was hosted by the Guyanese business community of Florida.

President Jagdeo and most members of the government-private sector team returned home over the weekend.

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