PPP worried about “malicious reporting”, protection of party faithful in whistle blower law

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:32 by Denis Chabrol

The opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) on Thursday  urged government to deal with “malicious reporting” in the whistle blower legislation and called on government not to punish those who complain about malpractices by their party faithful.

Contributing to the debate in the Protected Disclosures Bill, opposition lawmaker Joseph Hamilton said the draft Bill does not guard against malicious reporting of alleged corruption and other offences in the public and private sector.

“We couldn’t present a legislation where we are asking citizens to come forward and to report people for instance for corruption and other offences and we take no cognisance of the fact that people might have axe to grind and we have malicious reporting coming forward when people’s character is already on the line,” said Hamilton a veteran politician.

Hamilton said a provision for “legal professional privilege” prevents some persons being a whistle blower although he or she might have valuable information.

He called for the Protected Disclosures Bill to be sent to a bipartisan select committee for fine-tuning before it is returned to the full 65-member National Assembly.

The protected Protected Disclosures Commission, when established, would provide for persons or those who they authorise to lodge complaints directly with commissioners about alleged corruption and other malpractices by government and private sector persons.

PPP back-bencher, Harry Gill, who took credit for leaking information about a nurse at a West Berbice Hospital who was transferred to a clinic because she had complained more than once about the alleged mal-administering of a powerful painkiller, pethidine, to then Region Five APNU/PNCR Councillor Carol Joseph. Joseph has since resigned from the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and as a Region Five Councillor.

“What this courageous public official was about to find out was that she was battling against a clique of corrupt government officials who were determined to protect one of their own and the doctors who saw it fit to write illegal prescriptions,” Gill told the House. He charged that neither the Ministry of Public Health nor the Minister of Communities took any action. The Guyana Medical Council was said to be still considering the matter.

Gill questioned what message that incident would likely send to those who have information about corruption, wrongdoing or improper conduct.

“We need to strengthen this Bill to preserve the independence and integrity of the Protected Disclosures Commission and allow this body to function without giving the the minister to power to give directions to the commission which can  can be easily be abused to protect a party comrade or a minister of government,” he said.

The PPP legislator queried what would be the fate of public servant who squeals on a government minister for corruption, racial discrimination,  harassment or verbal abuse on the workforce.