A number of staff members from the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) and other agencies on Monday, with support from the Caribbean Institute of Forensic Accounting (CIFA), started an 18 days “Law Enforcement Training Series” on assets recovery and financial investigations.
In declaring the workshop open, Head of SARA Dr Clive Thomas told participants that corruption cannot be tackled by one institution such as SARA but it has to be multipronged. He said this is the main reason for including persons from other agencies that work closely with finance, revenue and management.
He told the attendees that were drawn from several state agencies and that the exercise is mandated by law. “The law in its wisdom mandates me to treat training as a priority. I have to train you, not because I think training is necessary, but I am compelled by law to provide you with training and that, I will do.”
Professor Thomas instilled in the participants that the training is systematic and that they are required to be diligent, attentive and punctual. Further, he said that the training to be undertaken is critical if the agency is to succeed at the task of asset tracking and recovery.
“The law also gives me other powers, but those powers can only be exercised on the basis of the competence of those persons who are executing on SARA’s behalf or in the name of anti-corruption,” he explained adding that he is also compelled by law to ensure that they are certified.
In delivering brief remarks at the opening, Commissioner of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Godfrey Statia noted that corruption accounts for 45 per cent of all frauds which take place in Latin America and the Caribbean, therefore Guyana is not alone.
However, he said Guyana should try to reduce fraud and gave the commitment of the GRA to work with all the agencies for the good of the country. He also emphasised the importance of networking among the various agencies involved in the fight against corruption and fraud.
He said, “Until we have a common database you’ll have to ask your colleagues for information. Sometimes laws will stymie access to that information, but that does not mean you cannot come together and use your resources so as to meet the end result.”
Meanwhile, the facilitator, Stephon Grey, a certified fraud examiner and forensic practitioner noted that the timing for the training is suitable since Guyana is preparing to welcome a new industry. He said that in developed countries training exercises similar to the one he will be conducting is necessary as it helps to educate persons of ways in which they could help to fight corruption at all levels.
Grey, who heads the CIFA, will bring together experts from around the world. These include, a leading asset recovery attorney and expert out of Europe Steven Baker, a former Head of the Grenada FIU Senneth Joseph, Mark Hood from England and Rene Cummings from the United States of America.
Among the agencies participating in the training which is scheduled for four weeks, are the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the GRA.