Charge state resource thieves; tighten anti-corruption loopholes- top US diplomat

Last Updated on Friday, 17 June 2016, 21:39 by Denis Chabrol

US Charge D'Affaires, Bryan Hunt delivering a stinging farewell speech. At left are Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Mr. Hunt's partner, Haroon.

US Charge D’Affaires, Bryan Hunt delivering a stinging farewell speech. At left are Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Mr. Hunt’s partner, Haroon.

A senior American diplomat Friday night called for those stealing state resources and engaging in violence against women and children to be charged.

“Anyone who has stolen, is stealing or in the future attempts to steal State resources must be criminally charged and held accountable before  a court of law,” Outgoing Deputy Chief of the American Embassy in Guyana, Bryan Hunt told a farewell reception that included top government and opposition elected officials,  ambassadors, representatives of civil society and senior law enforcement agents.

President David Granger is already on record as saying that in many cases the forensic audits have not found sufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges, but have offered his administration an opportunity to correct many deficiencies.

Former Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford and former Guyana Power and Light Board Director, Carville Duncan have been charged with fraud and larceny respectively.

Hunt cited the need for state asset management, establishment of the public procurement commission and annual forensic audits of all state entities to identify and correct deficiencies immediately.

Hunt also recommended that regulations and legislation be put in place to “fix the loopholes” in the current system that resulted in the issues that have been recently uncovered by the forensic audits.

In the area of conflict of interest, he said there was need for legislation and “enforceable asset disclosure requirements.” Hunt’s comments in this regard came against the background of Junior Natural Resources Minister, Simona Broomes having mining agreements with Pharsalus/ Troy Resources, and earlier this year she entered into an agreement with fellow gold miner, Edward Hopkinson, to operate an excavator on one of his mining properties.

President Granger and Senior Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman have rebuffed claims by Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc and sections of the media that Broomes has found herself in a conflict of interest situation.  The Guyana government has said that it is taking steps to merge a recently drafted ministerial code of conduct and the Integrity Act.

The American envoy, whose next posting would be to Mozambique, called on political parties to ensure their members are held accountable. “All political parties must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for their officials and elected representatives. We need to see parties holding their own accountable rather than defending or overlooking bad behaviour.”

Touching on violence against women and children, the diplomat said perpetrators should be charged and eschewed by politicians. “Violence against women and children must not only be criminally prosecuted but must become socially and politically unacceptable,” said Hunt.

The American envoy also urged Guyana to become a member of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative as well as ensure the human rights expansion and protection of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. “Societal attitudes must change to embrace all people as equal regardless of who they love or how they express their gender,” he added.