Public officials will be held accountable for actions – President Ali

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…urges Ministers, MPs to act in a fair, transparent manner

President Dr Irfaan Ali has sounded a warning to all public officials, including Ministers and parliamentarians, that the PPP/C Administration will not tolerate any action that is unbefitting of the office which they hold.

Over the years, particularly the last five years under the former APNU/AFC Administration, Ministers who would have acted inappropriately or accused of wrongdoing, faced little to no consequences for their actions.

During a recent interview with Inews, the Head of State was asked how he intends to deal with officials who misconduct themselves in office.

According to President Ali, “once the rules and the laws and the system operates, there’s no differentiation in treatment. The laws and the rules have to be applied across the board.” He subsequently explained that “we have to operate within a system that is no different from someone in a senior Government position or some citizen out there.”

President Irfaan Ali

President Ali revealed that he has already spoken to a number of public officials, including the newly-appointed Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments, about the responsibilities which they possess.

“This is a point that we take time to instil in them, the responsibility that is placed in them, the trust placed in them as public officers so that they will act in a manner that is befitting of the office, act in a fair manner, transparent manner and ensure their conduct is reflective of one that not only shows respect but allows persons to respect the office in which they hold,” President Ali asserted.

The Head of State reminded that he has already made it clear, during the swearing-in of new Ministers, that everyone will be held accountable for their actions.

“I made it very clear that everyone will be held to account for the stewardship of their sectors, there will be constant evaluation of performance, and importantly that their conduct and the way they operate will also form part of that evaluation,” he reiterated.

Indeed, at the swearing-in ceremony of new Ministers in August, President Ali charged them to be “results-oriented” and “transparent”.

Under the David Granger-led APNU/AFC Administration, Ministers and parliamentarians who misconducted themselves hardly faced any consequences for their actions.

In 2017, the then Public Health Minister Dr George Norton was merely transferred to the low-budget Social Cohesion Ministry after he came under severe criticisms over the Sussex Street Drug Bond scandal. With Dr Norton at the helm, the Public Health Ministry had paid millions of dollars to a known AFC-financier to rent a house to use as a drug bond. Even more contentious was the fact that the contract was sole-sourced under the pretext of “urgency” but a visit to the building found that many cold storage facilities were empty and no tablets were being stored.

In 2018, the then Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry was embroiled in what is now popularly known as the “parking lot scandal” where she and her driver were involved in an altercation with two security guards who were on duty at the building which houses the New Thriving Restaurant at Providence, East Bank Demerara.

The security guards were subsequently arrested after it was alleged, they pointed a gun at the then Minister and behaved in a threatening manner. But security footage of what transpired contradicted Broomes’ allegations and, in fact, revealed that she and her driver aggressively attempted to remove “No Parking” signs to facilitate her vehicle. In the end, the then Minister was never charged and the then President David Granger never publicly condemned the action.

Moreover, the then Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing, Valerie Patterson-Yearwood was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture under a newly-created portfolio for “Rural Affairs”. She was transferred after it was revealed that her husband had a multi million-dollar contract to build houses for the Ministry under a special programme. When the scandal was exposed in 2019, the then President Granger had said “at this point, I am satisfied that she has not committed any criminal offence and that she is a fit and proper person…” Also, the Public Procurement Commission (PPC), headed by the then Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson was found to have had breached Guyana’s procurement laws to award the new Demerara bridge feasibility contract.