UN Human Rights Committee tells Guyana to address “root causes of corruption”

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2024, 12:14 by Denis Chabrol

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on Thursday asked Guyana to take steps to stamp out corruption especially in law enforcement agencies, public procurement and the oil sector as a matter of priority and ensure that all anti-corruption bodies are truly independent

“The Committee urges the State party to adopt concrete measures to address the root causes of corruption as a matter of priority,” states the Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Guyana to the Committee held on 18th-20th March, 2024,

Specifically, the committee said it was concerned about reports of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources, particularly in the oil and gas extractive sector. “In this regard, the Committee is concerned about reports of corruption by
public officials in this sector, and the lack of information on measures taken to investigate such allegations,” the document states.

Guyana, according to the UNHRC, should take all appropriate measures to ensure that the management of its natural resources is not subject to corruption. That Committee also recommended that steps be taken to ensure that government permits granted for the exploitation of natural resources and licenses to exploit oil fields undergo adequate prior environmental and societal impact assessments carried out in a systematic and transparent manner, with a meaningful participation of all affected communities.

In the area of public procurement, the Human Rights Committee said Guyana should ensure prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into reports of corruption in awarding public contracts and prosecute, and if a person is convicted apply penalties
commensurate with gravity of the crime.

Despite the adoption of several laws and regulations by Guyana to combat corruption as well as the creation of a Special Organized
Crime Unit of the Guyana Police Force to have primary responsibility for investigating financial crimes, the UN Human Rights Committee said it remained concerned that framework to combat corruption is not yet sufficiently strong and effective in practice to adequately prevent or prosecute corruption, including in the police force and of high-level public officials. For example, the Committee said it was concerned about reports that the Commissioner of Information does not address all requests from the public; and the Protected Disclosures and Witness Protection Act has not yet entered into force. “The State party should expand its efforts to adopt and implement, efficient, and
prompt measures to promote good governance and combat corruption and impunity at all levels of government.”

Other recommendations by the UNHRC to combat corruption include ensuring that all corruption cases, including cases of those involved in high level corruption and corruption in police force, are independently and impartially investigated and prosecuted, and that perpetrators, if convicted, are sanctioned with penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, and that victims receive full reparation.

Guyana is also being called upon to ensure, in practice, the independence, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability of all anti-corruption bodies, including the Auditor’s General Office, the Commissioner of Information, the Integrity Commission, and the Public Procurement Commission; ensure that the right of access to information held by Commissioner of Information can be effectively exercised in practice; and effectively protect whistle-blowers and witnesses through expediting the entry into force of Protected Disclosures and Witness Protection Act.