SARA’s CEO claims political loyalty would not affect work
A top official from the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) was put in the hot seat on Monday, and was forced to defend the Agency in the face of perceived bias even as members of the former Administration are being brought before the courts to answer to various charges.
SARA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Aubrey Retmyer was asked about this perceived bias on the sidelines of a training seminar. Reference was made to Retmyer’s perceived affiliation with the People’s National Congress (PNC). However, noting that Guyana is a small country, he claimed not to know many people without political allegiances.
“I believe I can have a preference for a political party, but I can be unbiased in a professional sense. And I don’t think that is too much to ask a Guyanese, even if you’re a member or a follower of a political party, to operate professionally.
“It’s when you don’t operate professionally, and I’ve said that before that I have no qualms dealing with people that the evidence leads to. And in whatever environment, we’re not going after people because of their political alliance. We’re going after people because of where the evidence leads to.”
He was also asked whether SARA has investigated anyone from the current Administration. According to Retmyer, however, a procedure has to be followed, one that involves the provision of information.
“No. I remember the PPP, in replying to an invitation they had when we asked them to participate in the anti-corruption walk, they did raise some questions. But we just don’t go after cases. There’s a procedure we use to go after cases. We will stick to that procedure. If we have evidence or information that requires us to investigate something current, we will do it.
“What we started off with was the audit reports. Those reports went first to [Special Organised Crime Unit] SOCU; SOCU decided they would take it to PLA (Police Legal Adviser); the PLA took it to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions). We didn’t just jump off and start investigating because people said this or that individual was corrupt.”
In April, SARA had invited Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to an anti-corruption walk. The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had declined this invitation, citing several cases which SARA had failed to investigate. The Party had noted that in the meantime, fabricated charges had been instituted against former Government officials.
In declining the invitation, the Opposition Leader said that he viewed the walk as it was – a mere “smokescreen” to detract from the grossest violations of the constitutional and statutory provisions regarding financial probity, transparency, and accountability ever witnessed since independence.
Further, he added that he would not participate in such a walk while members of successive PPP/C Governments and other public officials have been discriminated against, victimised, and targeted by a State-sponsored witch-hunt on frivolous, manufactured charges.
In a letter sent to SARA Director, Professor Clive Thomas, Jagdeo stated that the parliamentary Opposition held firmly to this position, which was reflected in the PPP press release of April 14, 2018 that stated, among other things, “after being in office for only three years, the APNU/AFC Government can easily be classified as the most corrupt Government in the post-independent English-speaking Caribbean. Indeed, its corruption is only surpassed by its incompetence.”
The letter to Dr Thomas added that “the passage of the SARA Act has given you, sir, enormous, in fact, super powers – something we abhor as it is in total contravention to human rights and due process – but sir, you have those powers, so why have you taken no action as a so-called anti-corruption champion to bring members of the present Government to book? As they say, clean your own house so that others can see the light and know you are serious about fighting corruption.”