Relocate Broomes from Natural Resources Ministry – Jeffrey
– transfer of interest to children is not the answer
Despite no longer having legal control of her mining interests, concerns still abound that preferential treatment and favours will be granted to the children of Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes, who recently announced that her children have taken over all her mining operations in an effort to quiet down conflict of interest concerns.
However, political commentator Dr Henry Jeffrey contended that the only way those concerns can be eliminated is by completely removing the Minister from the Natural Resources Ministry. “I don’t think Minister Broomes understands clearly what conflict of interest means, I can understand her dilemma being in mining all this time and you know it’s a family business and she is now in the Ministry involved with mining. What she should be asking is for government to remove her from there and put her somewhere else. She could be in another Ministry,” Dr Jeffrey stated.
The recent approval of an application to operate a dredge in the name of ‘Simona Broomes’ sparked much controversy and once again raised conflict of interest concerns. However, reports indicate that the applicant ‘Simona Broomes’ is actually the daughter of the Minister, who shares the same name as her mother.
According to reports, Broomes said since becoming a Minister, she took a personal decision to relinquish control of all her dredges. In this regard, Broomes dismissed conflict of interest concerns with her children operating dredges, insisting that they have been in the mining industry all their lives.
But, questions still remain as to whether the minister is using her children as a front.
Another political commentator Ramon Gaskin, in an invited comment, supported the notion that the transfer of mining operations to her children does not put to rest conflict of interest concerns. “That doesn’t solve the problem because when the children go into Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to do business, they know that the children’s mother is the Minister, so that really don’t solve the problem,” he explained.
Gaskin said the best way to settle the conflict of interest concerns is to set up a blind trust. “You don’t hear from them and they don’t hear from you. They just running it for you and you have nothing to do with it. That’s how you deal with those kinds of situations. Not by giving it to your children and all that nonsense, that doesn’t solve the problem,” he stated.
A blind trust protects an investor from charges of conflict of interest and other improprieties because its specific assets and trading practices are unknown to the investor. In modern societies, corporate employees and public officials often use blind trusts to avoid charges of insider trading and corruption, respectively.
In fact, Gaskin said blind trusts should be established for all government ministers who have business interests. “This also goes to all ministers who have businesses, all of them should be required to set up a blind trust and turn over all their business deals, have nothing to do with it at all, ever. In that way, you would avoid any allegations of impropriety, because it is blind,” he stated.
Code of Conduct
According to the draft code of conduct, “Ministers, Members of Parliament and public office holders should avoid using their official position or transmitting any information made available to them in the course of their work to benefit themselves, their relations or any other individuals with whom they are associated.
They should avoid compromising themselves or their office which may lead to an actual or perceived conflict of interest. Failure to avoid or declare any conflict of interest may give rise to criticism of favouritism, abuse of authority or even allegations of corruption.”
The Code is further meant to engender and reinforce public confidence in the manner in which senior government officials perform their duties in service to the people. It is based on ten principles – Accountability, Dignity, Diligence, Duty, Honour, Integrity, Loyalty, Objectivity, Responsibility and Transparency – and is a Coalition Government manifesto promise.
Reports indicate that the government is still receiving feedback from stakeholders on the draft code of conduct before finalising it and passing in it in the National Assembly. Something which was supposed to have been done since August last year.