President seeks public's help in anti-corruption fight
Wants networking between Integrity Commission, state audit office
Government is seeking civil society's help in keeping corruption at bay.

Stabroek News
August 23, 2000

Yesterday President Bharrat Jagdeo said he planned to make a formal announcement mandating the publishing of the entire list of officials required by the Integrity Commission Act to submit annual returns to the Commission. Moreover, he expects the public's participation in the anti-corruption fight to also include officials not covered by the Act. He also wants to publish all findings relating to the charges submitted by complainants. Emphasising the need for public intervention now, Jagdeo said his administration has to work with the people on the ground.

Speaking at the opening yesterday of a training course for senior officers of the Office of the Auditor General at the NARI Training Centre at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, Jagdeo said persons were sceptical of reporting any misgivings about public officers because of an apparent lack of transparency in the investigations.

To bring about public confidence in the fight against corruption, therefore, the President said he suggested at a meeting with the Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, Integrity Commission Chairman Bishop Randolph George and Guyana Revenue Authority Commissioner General Edgar Heyligar that the three offices should work in collaboration.

These were a "few [of the] things" the President said would "hopefully make a difference in this area" and could go a far way in "resolving this problem." Noting that private and public sectors around the world are being made responsible for resources in a transparent and accountable manner, Jagdeo lamented that in Guyana this is "difficult" because some 50 per cent of the country's revenues are used up to service its debts.

To this end, he called on the national audit Office to work in partnership with his government, expressing concern over some persons putting that office "in opposition to government." He denounced this position saying that the audit office helps him to manage the economy better, and added that the office will always have his support. The audit office has repeatedly complained over a number of years that the government has not provided it with sufficient material and human resources to fulfil its mandate.

Moves are continuing, according to the President, to modernise the treasury department with the help of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It is likely to see an overhaul in the financial management model which, he said, is archaic. As a result of this exercise there will be a reduction in the "numerous entries" needed sometimes to complete a single transaction. Attending yesterday's opening training session as well were Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar, Secretary to the Treasury Claude Chang and other government officials, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Dunstan Barrow and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

In remarks earlier, Auditor General Anand Goolsarran stressed the need for training of his officers to be conducted in Guyana rather than abroad, since this arrangement would be more cost effective. He noted that the 25 officers undergoing a month's training in Performance Auditing, Report Writing, Environmental Auditing and Fraud and Forensic Auditing have saved the cost for two staffers, who otherwise would have been sent overseas for training.

The Auditor-General himself and his colleagues will be instructed by Robert Black of the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) believed to have the best auditing instructors in its home territory. The first two courses will be delivered by Black, who himself had described the approach taken by the audit office as practical and healthy. Moreover, he contended that performance-based auditing will improve governance and increase public confidence in the Government. However, this aspect of accountability does not have a legal mandate and so is undertaken within the broader framework of financial auditing, said Goolsarran.

The training project is being facilitated by a Government of Guyana and World Bank Credit Agreement in November 1999 and titled, Financial and Private Sector Institutional Development. It provides US$35,000 in a loan from the World Bank, and Government is expected to add a counterpart portion. (Bebe Buksh)

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