The numerous Commissions of Inquiries (COIs) launched by President David Granger have come at a hefty price of $175 million. Since 2015, Government has spent the sum on COIs, including costs associated with paying members and Chairmen.
This was revealed as a result of questions brought to the National Assembly by the political Opposition.
In his written responses to Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, Minister of State Joseph Harmon provided the costs for 11 COIs.
In the case of the 2015 CoI into the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), it was disclosed that $51.8 million was expended. This included a payment of $1.9 million to the Chairman and $2.4 million to all members except Professor Clive Thomas.
The COI into the public service cost taxpayers $40.1 million, with the Chairman and members being paid approximately $500,000 each. The 2016 COI into the education sector cost $26.7 million, with the Chairman receiving $4.8 million and members receiving $2.4 million.
The CoI into the 2016 prison disturbances cost $12.2 million, with Chairman James Patterson being paid $500,000. The other members were paid $350,000.
The CoI into last year’s fire at the Drop-in Centre cost $1.3 million, with the Chairman being paid $350,000. Inquiries into conditions of veterans and the discovery of a foreign aircraft at Yapukari cost $14.8 million and $8.3 million respectively; while the Chairman of the former pocketed $750,000, and no individual payment for the second.
The inquiry into allegations made against the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unity by Barry Dataram cost $1 million, with $500,000 being paid to the Chairman. Harmon also detailed in his response that the CoI into the October 2016 collapse of a mining pit that killed Keon Wilson cost $5.1 million. The Chairman was paid $750,000.
In the case of the inquiry into the release of a private vessel in Guyana’s waters, a total of $8.2 million was spent. The Chairman was paid $550,000, while the members were paid $500,000.
Harmon also revealed that $5.4 million was spent on the CoI into the presidential assassination plot, with the Chairman pocketing $500,000.
Government has for some time faced accusations that it ignored recommendations made in some of these very COIs; such as the inquiry into the state of GuySuCo.
Among other things, this COI had produced recommendations that no estate be closed. Government has in fact already stated it will forge ahead with closing all estates except Blairmont, Uitvlugt and Albion, thus rendering this piece of advice redundant.
In the CoI into the 2016 prison disturbances, which saw 17 inmates losing their lives in a fire, it was found that the combination of overcrowding, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement were all ideal conditions for epidemics for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent.
Moreover, the CoI found that reducing numbers in prison to manageable levels is the single most important priority for establishing safe, humane and purposeful prisons.
It was further noted that repeat offenders have increased by over 100 per cent, “indicating not only a waste of taxpayers’ dollars but also the need for a more comprehensive and structured partnership within the wider justice system.”
In order to effect a reduction in the prison population, the report had been specific in explaining what needed to be done. For one, it had recommended Government move to abolish mandatory minimum sentences and decriminalise possession of minimum amounts of marijuana for personal use.
But despite the emphasis in the CoI report on reducing numbers, it was revealed at the time of the disastrous fire earlier this year – which gutted the prison – that over 1000 prisoners were being housed at the prison, with a contingent out on labour duty. The Camp Street Prison was originally built to house half that number.
When Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels was asked about the progress made in implementing the recommendations from last year, he said money just was not there to implement the major recommendations.