- …should outline penalties for transgressions
The Ministerial Code of Conduct, which was finalised in 2017 and was intended to hold Ministers to a certain standard while in office, seems not to have lived up to expectations. This is according to Transparency International of Guyana Inc Head, Dr Troy Thomas.
Dr Thomas was at the time making an appearance on the Globespan 24/7 live show in New York on Saturday, titled “Integrity in politics”. The anti-corruption advocate pointed to the recent accusations of conflict of interests levelled at Government Ministers. According to Dr Thomas, the shortcomings of the code are evident.
“One of the biggest issues with the revised code of conduct is that it does not articulate a penalty. So I’m not sure it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. It has several things in it. But if you breach them, then what? We don’t know and I think that needs to be articulated very clearly in there,” Dr Thomas said.
“When they released the draft initially, it did not have anything about resolving the conflict through the Integrity Commission, that’s something we had argued for. It was in the revised version.”
But Dr Thomas noted that also in the revised version were provisions for the conflicted person to take measures to resolve their problems themselves. According to the anti-corruption advocate, these are things that should be determined by the Commission.
“The impunity is one of the greatest problems. So far, nobody has been convicted of all the things we found out… so far, there’s more of an incentive to take the risk and enrich yourself than do the right thing and remain poor,” Dr Thomas said.
The code of conduct is made up of 11 Articles. Article One prohibits public officials from taking bribes, while Article Two focuses on discrimination. Article Three prohibits public officials from accepting “any gift, benefit or advantage from anyone, [except] personal gifts from a relative or friend”. This provision, it states, does not apply to gifts received on behalf of the State.
Article Five states: “No public [official] shall use his or her official influence in support of any scheme or in furtherance of any contract or proposed contract or other matter in regard to which he or she has an interest”.
Article Six has provisions for ensuring confidentiality. It prohibits public officials from disclosing any information that is classified as privileged or confidential, to any unauthorised person. Article Seven prohibits officials from using public property such as money, equipment, supplies or services for unapproved purposes.
Article Nine prohibits public officials from accepting “lavish or frequent entertainment” from any person or entity that the Government has or may have dealings with. This, the Article notes, includes invitations to sporting events and concerts.
Article 10 prohibits officials from using their office in an improper manner for personal gain, while the final Article forbids anyone in public life from having outside employment “except with the written consent of the relevant authority”.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that former Minister of Housing, Valarie Patterson-Yearwood’s husband, Godfrey Yearwood, was awarded a contract to build homes for a project spearheaded by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA); an agency which she had responsibility over as Housing Minister.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had disclosed at a press conference earlier this month that the construction worker went to him after he had exhausted efforts to collect his payments from the Minister’s husband.
According to the Opposition Leader, the man had written President Granger four times over the past year for the Head of State’s intervention but only got acknowledgement responses.
Chief Executive Officer of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), Lelon Saul had revealed that he was aware of this issue of non-payment.
“A complaint was lodged at the Ministry, I think it was sometime last year, and we would have called in both parties and we advised them to settle the issue,” Saul told reporters earlier this month.
Further, the CH&PA Head had also noted that the award of the contract to the Minister’s husband for works under a Ministry she was heading was a clear conflict of interest even if the contract was awarded through a competitive bidding process.
“If the contractor in question is the spouse of the Minister, certainly it would be a conflict of interest,” he posited.
To this end, the CH&PA Head called for a review of the awarding process so that there is no reoccurrence of such a situation. It is a call that was echoed by other sections of society, including Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc.
There have also been revelations that Videomega Productions, the multi-media company owned by Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes, received multiple contracts from the Government.