Narratives that Ignore Facts do a Disservice to Guyana, Guyanese People – Min. Teixeira

The objectionable narrative from Stabroek News, via its editorial, headlined ‘Regional anti-corruption conference’ on April 23, 2023, serves the single purpose of feeding into the narrative of naysayers in Guyana – the usual suspects whose agenda remains unchanged and visible, conveniently enough, only when the PPP/C Administration is in Office. The assertion by Stabroek News that: “All that Minister Teixeira likely succeeded in doing at the Conference, was persuade the other regional participants that the government here was not fully committed to addressing corruption,” is imprudent.

The facts of the matter of corruption are as follows:

FACT 1: At no time was an insinuation made that corruption is not a problem; rather the objection is that non-empirical, non-scientific, data cannot be the standard by which such a serious issue is measured by Transparency International and the World Justice Project.

For example, the World Justice Project explains that its methodology employs the use of a survey “that highlight perceptions and experiences” and features “perception-based questions” and “experience-based questions” in its questionnaire.

Transparency International’s approach is the same since it “aggregates data from a number of different sources that provide perceptions among business people and country experts” in a country.  Minister Teixeira questioned if this unknown minute number of persons was sufficient to castigate an entire country.

Stabroek News’ defence of the work of Transparency International cannot detract from the fact that by its own admission TI and International Financial Institutions accept that the CPI I is based on non-empirical, non-scientific, data. This cannot be an acceptable basis to paint countries in the Global South in a negative light.

This fact is neither new nor unheard of; according to a Centre for Global Development 2013 blog post, “the CPI embeds a powerful and misleading elite bias in popular perceptions of corruption, potentially contributing to a vicious cycle and at the same time incentivising inappropriate policy responses. The index corrupts perceptions to the extent that it’s hard to see a justification for its continuing publication.”

Stabroek News does not seem to find it highly coincidental that the Global South made up mainly of developing countries is also made up of people of colour.

Consequently, the opinion expressed in the Editorial, “…was she really trying to suggest that in terms of corruption Guyana, for example, equated to mature Scandinavian democracies” can only be described as obtuse.

In fact, the Minister re-affirmed the Government’s commitment to prevent, detect, investigate and enforce the constitutional and statutory framework against corruption and to build resilient institutions.

FACT 2: Efforts are being made to strengthen Guyana’s anti-corruption framework – a fact that the perceptions-based reporting ignores.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, last year, published guided a 26-page document, titled ‘Cooperative Republic of Guyana: Anti-Corruption Framework – Fact Sheet and Detailed Framework 2022’, which might prove instructive for some who are intent on conveying the impression that nothing is being done to address the corruption challenge.

At an international level, Guyana’s reporting is done under two major conventions.  Firstly, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (IACAC) under the Organisation of American States (OAS) was the first multilateral anti-corruption treaty instrument negotiated in the world. The Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter- American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) of the OAS is the Follow-Up Mechanism for the implementation of the IACAC.   Secondly, the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on October 31, 2003. The UNCAC entered into force on December 14, 2005. Guyana ratified both conventions on December 11, 2000, and April 16, 2008, respectively.

Guyana has reported to both bodies in keeping with their treaty obligations; Guyana is now in its 6th cycle review of the IACAC and the 2nd assessment at the UNCAC.

At the national level, a National Coordinating Committee (NCC) on Anti-Corruption with regard to Guyana’s treaty obligations which involves a cross-section of government agencies was established. This committee works on not only ensuring that Guyana is compliant with its reporting obligations but also on capacity building and maximizing the synergies that exist among agencies. The NCC meets on a bi-monthly basis and 16 agencies are currently represented on the Committee.

At the community level, the ‘eyes and ears’ concept is an important component in building out the anti-corruption framework, since it encourages members of society to act as vigilant “citizen observers’ and report any suspicious acts of corrupt activities they may observe including quality of work being executed with taxpayers’ monies.

The Stabroek News may need to be reminded that in 2008, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board launched its website with the minutes of the opening of the bids, awards of the tenders, and advertisement for contracts and standard bidding documents. It is the only country where the media is invited to the opening of the tenders and in spite of the CVOIS-19 pandemic, this continued through livestreaming of the process for the media and competing contractors. This was the first country to do so and remains so today. However, during the 2015-2020 period, this website became defunct; and when forced to be partially restored in 2019 due to the on-site visit of the MESICIC for the 5th cycle of review, the website was a conundrum of confusion for anyone trying to ascertain who received an award of a contract.

One of the ‘I Paid A Bribe’ online platforms which was morphed into a promotion platform.

In 2013, the Minister of Home Affairs launched the online ‘I Paid A Bribe’ initiative, to support efforts aimed at cracking down on bribery in Government agencies and departments

and the Guyana Police Force. Under the last Administration, this initiative and its online platforms were morphed into promotion platforms for personalities in the PNCR-led Coalition, before the initiative died.

Further,  Guyana is the only country with a  constitutionally appointed  Public  Procurement Commission which is in place and functioning.

Unfortunately, none of these international reporting obligations or national programmes, policies or legislative advances are reflected in perception-based reporting.   It is in this context that Stabroek News’ ramblings about the PPP/C Government not being able to move to a “more objective approach” ring hollow.

FACT 3: The reference to the Caribbean Region is relevant if developing nations are to effectively counter a narrative that harms our Region.

The narrative in the developed world is that countries in the Global South are not only underdeveloped but are rife with corruption.

Only recently, Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Motley, in an interview with a reporter from SVT (Sweden) questioned why “every time we talk about countries from the South, the first allegation is corruption?” The Barbadian leader was clear in saying: “Why is it that every time we talk about countries from the south, the first allegation is corruption? The USA, UK & Europe are riddled with corruption, but nobody says that they’re not capable of achieving their objectives (…).” Prime Minister Motley clearly articulated that this is a challenge that developing countries face and her comments on the matter are instructive.

Therefore, Stabroek News’ claim that references to the Caribbean Region were “a case of the PPP/C government applying its own distorted norms to the region as a whole” is without basis.  There can be no apology for Guyana’s and other nations’ rejection of the use of non-empirical, non-scientific data, to minimize “good faith efforts” by our country and other developing nations to fight corruption.

FACT 4: Partnerships are needed to respond to all forms of corruption.

Contrary to perception, corruption is not a concept that is restricted to the government’s fiscal prudence in managing the provision of goods and services to people – but extends to guarding against the corruption of our electoral process, and the consequent undermining of the will of Guyanese, as well as good stewardship of our national patrimony, and transparency and accountability in the business and civil society.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira

The 9th Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies (CCAICACB) was held under the theme ‘”Resetting the Anti-Corruption Agenda: Assessing Achievements and Challenges in the Commonwealth Caribbean”.  It is one of several anti-corruption platforms where experiences on national policies, programmes and legislation, etc. can be shared to strengthen the national and regional efforts in the fight against corruption.

It is unfortunate that the Stabroek News Editorial of April 23, 2023, appeared to have been disinterested in having a “more objective approach” to the Minister’s speech and to Guyana’s genuine “good faith efforts” to fight corruption.