Guyana urges Caribbean nations to dismiss Transparency International corruption yardsticks

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 April 2023, 13:04 by Denis Chabrol

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance (centre) flanked by delegates at the 9th Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies.

Guyana on Monday suggested that sister Caribbean nations should wage a campaign against the authenticity of Transparent International’s corruption rankings, saying they were not scientific for media houses to use them to publish largely questionable stories.

“The Caribbean countries keep getting notoriety in the international media for havens of corruption and the number of articles that are printed showing that we have  massive corruption in the Caribbean islands and we have to be offended by that as CARICOM countries,” Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira said Monday.

Ms Teixeira, who heads a 16- agency domestic coordinating mechanism for the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, questioned Transparency International’s source of information to compile the Corruption Perception Index. “I, as a Guyanese and as a member of the government, we do not accept TI’s assessment of us. It is non-empirical, it is non-scientific and, therefore we do bot feel, as its value, that an organisation can have two or three unnamed persons in a country evaluate your country and put your country on a scale globally, “she said in address to the opening of the 9th Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union are on record as collectively calling on Guyana to not only pass anti-corruption laws but enforce them.

TI’s website states that each country’s score is a combination of at least 3 data sources drawn from 13 different corruption surveys and assessments. That organisation states these data sources are collected by a variety of reputable institutions, including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

TI also says the data sources used to compile the CPI specifically cover the following manifestations of public sector corruption such as bribery, diversion of public funds, officials using their public office for private gain without facing consequences, ability of governments to contain corruption in the public sector, excessive red tape in the public sector which may increase opportunities for corruption, nepotistic appointments in the civil service, laws ensuring that public officials must disclose their finances and potential conflicts of interest, legal protection for people who report cases of bribery and corruption, State capture by narrow vested interests and access to information on public affairs/government activities

She restated that the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration’s long-held view that a small number of persons have “enormous” power although they were unelected by Guyanese. Globally, she said the difference between the North and South is that the South is often perceived as less democratic and corrupt. “Isn’t that rather coincidental? And, for me, this is a reflection of  biases and prejudices against persons in the the Developing World,” she said.

Minister Teixeira said instead of Integrity Commissions “being in this background checking everybody” they should inform and educate citizens so that they come on board to tackle corruption. She described as “the worst form of corruption” the stealing of democracy. “Thyt should be the honour and benchmark when we are talking about corruption,” she said.

The veteran Guyanese politician argued that Caribbean democracies have not yet matured and so that impinges on honesty and respect by the public service, and the performance of the judiciary, legislature, and civil society. “When one has strong democratic institutions that are efficient, that are professional that are doing their mandate according to the constitution and the law, you have less opportunities for corruption, less avenues for corruption,” she said.

Among the ideas floated to involve ordinary citizens who are keen on ensuring they and the countries get value for money. That, she said, could include citizen anti-corruption reporting, investigative reporting, crime stoppers and anonymous web-based confidential information systems. Strengthening the investigative, prosecutorial, judiciary and other systems, she said, would help to build trust for the public to provide information.