Ministry of Legal Affairs convenes first in series of Anti-Corruption Sensitisation Seminars in Linden

DPI, Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Ministry of Legal Affairs on Wednesday held its first Anti-Corruption Sensitisation Seminar at the Watooka House in Linden, to sentise and inform a wide cross section of stakeholders of the Anti-Corruption Bills and the Anticorruption Act 2017.

Declaring the seminar opened, Basil Williams S.C. ,Minister of Legal Affairs and  Attorney General in his opening remarks said it is the aim of his Ministry to inform the public of the newly enacted Bills and Act, starting with the town of Linden.

Members of Chambers of Commerce at the Anti-Corruption Sensitisation Seminar (from left) Chairperson Diane Woolford, Snr. Parliamentary Counsel Joann Bond, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams SC, Chief Parliamentary Counsel Charles Fung-a-Fatt and Parliamentary Counsel Ronetta Sargent.

“…It is here that we have decided to start a series of anti-corruption sensitisation meetings …it is a very important aspect of the policy of this government that we protect the state assets which are your assets, the assets of the people and of the nation,” Williams said.

The seminar saw three presentations by Parliamentary Counsels giving overviews of the State Assets Recovery Act 2017, the Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) Bill 2017 and the Witness Protection Bill 2017.

Chief Parliamentary Counsel Charles Fung-a-Fatt, began the seminar with an overview on the State Asset Recovery Act (SARA), which embodies the Anti-Corruption Trust of the state of Guyana and is predicated on the United Nations Convention against Corruption 2003.

The SARA Act was assented to by President Granger and published in the Official Gazette, and became operational May 04, 2017. It will introduce legislation to combat unlawful conduct and corrupt practices in relation to property and other assets owned by the state or in which the state has an interest

It sets out to provide investigations by a State Assets Recovery Agency, whose primary function is the civil recovery of state property obtained through unlawful conduct by public officials or other persons, by way of civil proceedings taken in the High Court

The Act also provides for investigations leading to the granting by the High Court of Restraint and Civil Recovery Orders in respect of unlawfully acquired property, to engage in international cooperation in the recovery of stolen assets of states within the contemplation of the Act, and other related matters.

The Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) Bill and the Witness Protection Bill 2017 presented respectively by Parliamentary Counsels, Ronetta Sargent and Joann Bond are two Acts yet to be laid in parliament, which will serve to buttress the SARA Act

According to Sargent, the Whistleblower Bill would assist in combatting corruption and other wrongdoings, by facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sectors.  The bill will also protect persons making those disclosures from harmful action, and seeks to provide for a Protected Disclosure Commission to receive, investigate and deal with disclosures of improper conduct and other related matters.

Meanwhile, Bond who presented the Witness Protection Bill through a brief PowerPoint presentation explained that it aims to introduce legislation for the establishment of a Witness Protection Programme to ensure the security of certain witnesses and other persons, as well as three agencies to administer the programme.

The seminar saw a wide cross-section of stakeholders including the members of the Chambers of Commerce, public

A section of the audience at the Anti-Corruption Sensitisation Seminar in Linden.

servants of Linden, members of the Police Force and the Linden Town Council among others.

As the event drew to a close, the presenters and the Attorney General were inundated with questions from the participants as they sought to gain more clarity on the Act and Bills presented.

Speaking with the Department of Public Information (DPI), Simone Johnson, Senior Personal Officer of the Regional Democratic Council, Region 10 said the seminar was an informative one, especially since some persons do not take the time to read the newspapers.

Johnson said, “The Ministry of Legal Affairs coming in to the region and informing us of the bills and their plans…it promotes awareness for us as citizens of Guyana…I hope the outreach does not apply only to Region 10, but would also be meted out to other regions as well.”

Also sharing the same view, Mayor of Linden, Carwyn Holland, said, “I believe the seminar is timely; it is very important and judging from the amount of questions being asked, Lindeners really needed some clarity, and Lindeners welcomed this initiative by the government of Guyana.”

He added, “Speaking on a wider scale, I believe this is good for Guyana. It shows that government is against corruption and it shows that government is serious about corruption.”

The Ministry of Legal Affairs aims to continue its Anti-Corruption Sensitisation Seminars within the Corriverton, New Amsterdam, Berbice, and Essequibo before the end of 2017.

 

By: Crystal Stoll

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