Public officials should declare local, foreign assets – US Embassy deputy

Outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Guyana, Bryan Hunt is of the view that Guyanese public officials should be made to publicly declare all assets, both local and overseas, in the name of transparency.
This comes in light of Government using its one-seat parliamentary majority back in January to turn down a motion tabled by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Opposition that would provide for all Members of Parliament (MPs) making public declarations of taxable income and all assets to the Integrity Commission.
In an exclusive interview with Guyana Times on Tuesday, Hunt said that without siding with any of the political parties, he believed that public disclosure of assets was an important aspect of transparency. He noted that it was important for not only the executive branch but all State officials to publicly declare all of their assets.
“While this is a debate the Guyanese public needs to have as oppose to the international community, I think in principle the ultimate objective should be to have all public office holders, all senior civil servants disclose fully all assets they may hold whether it’s in Guyana or overseas,” he posited.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo
Opposition Leader
Bharrat Jagdeo

According to Hunt, there needs to be disclosure legislation that is not only on the books but actively enforced across the board for all public office holders at all levels. The US diplomat, who will be leaving next month after a three-year tour in Guyana, said that it was equally critical for the same to be applied to Opposition members as well.
“So, I would encourage both sides of the (National Assembly) to move as quickly as possible to put those sorts of public disclosure laws in place,” he urged.
However, the outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission opted not to take a position on what process should be adopted to ensure such transparency.
“What specific legislation, whether it’s multiple legislations, whether it’s broad or in over some period of time, whether you start with A and move to B, I’ll leave to the politicians and the public to debate, but the end goal of all of this needs to be full disclosure of all assets, wherever they may be held anywhere in the world,” he stated.
The proposed Code of Conduct for Government officials and parliamentarians is part of a menu of measures that call for accountability and proper demeanour by MPs and Government officials.
According to the proposed Code of Conduct, the coalition Government has, over time, committed to being scrutinised by all as it believes that it is accountable to the people. The Government assures that it will continue to strive to live up to its promise of transparency and accountability in all of its endeavours.
In fact, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration had long been pushing for transparency and had even accused members of the PPP/C regime of stashing their wealth abroad.
However, when the Opposition proposed the motion to have Ministers’ tax records and statements made available to the Integrity Commission and released to the public, it was defeated by Government. The coalition noted that it was not in favour of the public

US Deputy Chief of Mission Bryan Hunt
US Deputy Chief of Mission Bryan Hunt

declaration, and would prefer to make such disclosures to the Integrity Commission instead.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had stated that he had already declared all his assets to the Integrity Commission and was willing to disclose his international possessions as well, if Government was prepared to follow suit.
“Yeah… I will declare everything local and overseas. The local money is in my Integrity Commission everything. Everything you have to declare there, you would have seen it there,” he stated back in April.
Jagdeo, who was at the time speaking about the leaked “Panama Papers”, declared that he did not have any hidden wealth in shell accounts. He took the opportunity to restate that the coalition Administration should agree to have the International Police (Interpol) or any other credible, independent international firm investigate the local and overseas wealth of all current and former parliamentarians.
“We are prepared to do this, ask them if they are prepared to do this; to go with us jointly and make a request of anybody, if not Interpol, an investigative firm, together to look at all of the holdings of everyone,” he remarked, while ruling out the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU) which he said was loaded with “political hacks” who were surreptitiously looking to damage people’s reputations.
“Let’s do this as a motion in Parliament, so the international organisation won’t treat it as partisan, they will treat it as a national thing,” Jagdeo, who served as President for 12 years, said. “Not just the status of all Presidents and ex-Presidents, all Members of Parliament, their holdings abroad.”