…says public officials with beneficial ownerships should be investigated
The majority of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Members of Parliament (MP) have already submitted their declarations to the Integrity Commission, according to the Party’s leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.
Last month, Chairman of the Commission, Kumar Duraisami, had disclosed that only some MPs had so far submitted their declarations to the Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that public officials declare their assets annually, as required under the law.
Duraisami, an attorney and former Land Court Judge, had disclosed a total of 1296 letters and declaration forms sent out to public officers – 69 to the National Assembly; 407 to the various Ministries; 242 to the 10 administrative regions and 576 to the various constitutional agencies. However, only 248 forms were returned to the Commission.
However, the Integrity Commission Chairman could not say specifically at the time how many Parliamentarians had complied and sent in their declarations. Noting that MPs are not the only ones with outstanding declarations, Duraisami said an additional two-month extension has been given to allow those who are required to declare their assets to do so.
But Jagdeo told reporters at his weekly press briefing on Thursday that he had urged the Party’s MPs to try to get their declarations in before the end of October. However, he noted that most of the parliamentarians have been out in the field preparing for the upcoming Local Government Elections.
“[But] it’s already November 1, so I have to check now how many managed to [do so] but definitely before Local Government Elections, all our members of Parliament would have submitted their statements to the Integrity Commission. I did so about two weeks ago…,” Jagdeo stated.
The Opposition Leader’s comments came as he was responding to questions about beneficial ownership. Jagdeo believes that public officials who have shares in companies should declare same to the Integrity Commission.
“You should state there [at the Integrity Commission declaration] whether you have holdings etc. But sometimes, you know, they do it through third parties so that’s why you have to trace it. We don’t have the capability of doing it because we, the PPP, have limited funds and staff, and so on…,” the Opposition Leader stated.
According to Jagdeo, his party has received information of several public officials with beneficial ownerships.
One such case, he said, is a senior official at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) being a part owner of a company that is reportedly getting contracts in another agency.
“He is a key figure in GECOM and the contracts are not all above board so if you start tracing some of the contracts, you would find some of the linkages of individuals,” he stated.
Another instance, the Opposition Leader highlighted is the several hundred million dollars in supplementary funds that were sought for increase in fees to security services. However, Jagdeo said he does not believe that the security guards benefit from these increases.
“We want to know whether this money will get into the pockets of the security guards but we suspect not, because we have started doing some investigations as to who the principals are… and you will see a direct link between some people in Government now and beneficial ownership,” he asserted.
Furthermore, Jagdeo posited that the concept of “borrowing over the budget” was clear during Wednesday’s sitting of the National Assembly when Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was answering questions on a leaning college building and for which corrective works were way in excess of what the original contract cost.
“So you can bid for $10 million now, and work for Government, and by the time you finish working, you get $90 million but you only bid on $10 million with the other competitors because they varied the contract throughout, this time they claiming that they finish the building and the building leaned so you had to get another $50 million to go back to the foundation,” he noted.