Nandlall did no research in relation to Transparency International before making his comments

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has joined the attack on Transparency International (TI) on the publication of its 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. Because Mr Nandlall is a member of a profession which calls itself learned, and which is known for its members researching before speaking, and speaking with a certain sense of responsibility and decorum, I thought it might be useful to examine how Mr Nandalall’s statement stacks up against those standards.

Mr Nandlall accused TI of:

1. Failing to disclose “the empirical data or sources that they examined to arrive at those conclusions.”
2. Not stating the methodology as to how the organisation ended up at its findings [sic].
3. Not disclosing whom they spoke to and which institutions and organisations, or which documents they consulted.
4. “Gross dereliction” by arriving at baseless disclosures.
5. Failure to say where corruption exists, be it in the government, public or private sector.
6. Failure to examine the institutional mechanisms which are in place constitutionally, legislatively or departmentally.
7. Being insulting and disrespectful to Guyana and Guyanese.

Points 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all on the same issue: that Transparency International did not disclose vital information and sources.

If Mr Nandlall had taken the elementary research step of going on TI’s website he would have learnt that the basis for inclusion of a country/territory in the CPI is a minimum of three of the CPI’s data sources. The website also identifies CPI’s 2012 data sources as: i) African Development Bank (ADB); ii) Bertelsmann Foundation (German non-profit foundation); iii) International Institute for Management Development (IMD); iv) World Competitiveness Yearbook; v) International Country Risk Guide (ICRG); vi) World Bank; vii) World Economic Forum (WEF); viii) World Justice Project; ix) Economist Intelligence Unit; x) Global Insight; xi) Political Economic Risk Consultancy (Asian); xii) Transparency International Bribe Payers Survey; and Freedom House (no, not that one).

If he had acted more responsibly, he would have learnt that in the case of Guyana, there were four sources: ICRG, WB, WEF and Global Insight, and that a country’s score on the index is a simple average of its data sources.

Point 5 is even worse in terms of Mr Nandlall’s research efforts. I find it embarrassing that the Attorney General of this country does not by now know that the definition of corruption in the TI lexicon is “misuse of public office for private gain.” Perhaps he is more familiar with relevant examples such as Pradoville 1 and 2; the misuse of duty-free concessions; and paying out of the Treasury so-called advisors to the President and the Local Government Minister to work at Nandlall’s party in Freedom House.

Mr Nandlall should and could have served his and the country’s interest by challenging the local Institute to start speaking out on private sector corruption, including tax evasion and money laundering. He must be personally aware that members of his and other professions as well as aggressive law firms not only engage in these practices for their own direct benefit, but also in aiding and abetting others to do so.

Once Mr Nandlall understands my comments on points 1 to 5 above, he will realise that point 6 is not relevant to his argument. I cannot believe that the holder of such a distinguished public office does not recognise that in his attempt to discredit others, he ought not to be relying on laws that are on the statute books but not in operation. Any person would know that rather than prevent and punish, it actually perpetuates corruption if the Procurement Commission is not established ten years after it became a mandatory constitutional requirement; if there is an Integrity Commission without commissioners; an Access to Information Act not brought into force sixteen months after passage; and a Judicial Review Act not brought into force two years after passage.

On disrespect and insult, readers might wish to consider whether Mr Nandlall’s failures do not amount to an insult to his own intelligence, that of the legal profession and to the expectation of Guyanese to have an Attorney General who is informed, responsible, temperate and accurate.

Finally Editor, I researched the recent publications of leading newspapers in Zimbabwe and Pakistan which had much worse ratings than Guyana in the 2012 Index. In fact, in the case of Pakistan, the 2012 CPI was sensationally misreported by stating that Pakistan was the 33rd most corrupt country in the world. That report wrongly assumed that all the countries of the world were covered in the survey. Some twenty countries were not.

Yet I could not see any article or statement in which the governments of Pakistan and Zimbabwe engaged in any attack on Transparency International or their national chapters, let alone in the crass, vulgar, shameless and disgraceful manner in which Mr Nandlall, Ms Gail Teixeira, the PPP/C and the PYO did in the case of Guyana.

Teixeira was very wrong

In his presentation at the awards dinner of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry last Thursday Mr Clinton Urling, the Chamber’s President included in his wish list for Guyana a stronger civil society. In the course of his presentation Mr Urling not only referred to the work of the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc but also echoed a recent call by that young organisation – made on the day Transparency International released its 2012 world Corruption Perceptions Index – for measures to enhance accountability, combat corruption and strengthen governance.

Mr Urling would most likely have been aware that only a few hours before he spoke the youth arm of the ruling party had attacked Transparency Institute, singling out its highly respected Vice-president Dr Anand Goolsarran for its vituperation, and severely chastising Transparency International for daring to include Guyana in its 2012 survey. Significantly, even if Mr Urling was aware of the attack, he offered no comment or defence of a civil society organisation in the presence of two Ministers of Government, Messrs Irfaan Ally and Robert Persaud.

One day later, PPP/C governance czarina Ms Gail Teixeira took the PYO vulgarity one notch down when she dismissed the 2012 CPI by stating that “only four persons were surveyed [by TI] as it related to Guyana.“ She even suggested that they must all be male! Surely anyone who knows anything about surveys would know that no sane person would regard a sample of four as reliable or representative of any population and that such a statement simply could not be right. Indeed, Ms Teixeira was wrong, very wrong.

The Transparency International website discloses that for its 2012 CPI with respect to Guyana, TI used four surveys, which in total, and even allowing for overlap, would have covered hundreds of individuals and organisations. The four surveys were Global Insight, World Bank’s Control of Corruption Index (WB), World Economic Forum and the International Country Risk Guide.

If this better information does not have any impact on Ms Teixeira and her “youths”, it is inevitable that any discourse in Guyana would continue to be backward-looking, uncivil and profoundly infected by manipulation and distortions. The leadership of the PPP/C must be in dreamland if it does not realise that for many Guyanese, the ‘C’ in PPP/C has long since ceased to represent any evaporated Civic and now, on empirical evidence as well as well-founded perception, unmistakably stands for Corruption.

Ashni Singh criticizes Transparency International methodology

December 9 was an important day for Guyana. For the first time since 2003 when the United Nations designated the day as International Anti-Corruption Day to raise awareness about corruption as an international and domestic agenda issue, the day was marked with a public activity – a seminar – in which the Government of Guyana took part. While President Ramotar could not be present his administration was represented by re-appointed Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh who made a full-length presentation on behalf of the government, and Ms Gail Teixeira.

The event was sponsored and hosted by Transparency Institute Guyana Inc and its directors succeeded in having Ms Zoe Reiter, a senior programme officer of Transparency International come especially for the occasion to make a presentation. Ms Reiter used the occasion to launch formally the Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). She did not bring good news.

Guyana falls
The CPI ranks countries according to their perceived levels of public-sector corruption using a simple form of indexing to arrive at a score ranging between 0, perceived to be the most corrupt, and 10, perceived to be the least corrupt. The 2011 index draws on different assessments and business opinion surveys that are carried out by independent, reputable institutions. The surveys and assessments that are used to compile the index include questions which relate to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and questions that probe the strength and effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts.

Guyana was first included in the CPI in 2005 and in 2010 was ranked at number 116. It plummeted to 134 this year. By comparison our Caribbean neighbours were ranked as follows:

Three of the Caribbean countries are included for the first time: the Bahamas, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname.

Not wealth nor size but systems
Wealth seems no easy antidote to corruption; some relatively rich countries, including Russia, fall at the bottom of the global league table. Meanwhile, some of the world’s poorer states do comparatively well: Botswana, Bhutan, Cape Verde, and Rwanda all appear among the 50 “cleanest” countries.

Nor is size a major issue either. Many of the smaller island states are in the top half of the corruption ladder while many larger countries are in the bottom half. What seems clear is that those countries with strong systems, independent institutions, modern laws and effective enforcement are likely to be at the head of the line.

New Zealand, a country that has shown a willingness to help Guyana develop systems for better parliamentary governance, occupies the top spot with a score of 9.5 followed by Finland and Denmark. The countries that occupy the bottom ranks in the index are Somalia, North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan, which are helmed by unstable governments and conflicts.

Jagdeo’s basket
In terms of corruption, the final year of the Jagdeo administration was not a good one for Guyana or for the PPP/C government. It was dominated by scandals surrounding persons high up in the administration being associated with deals involving state lands, containers, and shady characters. We saw too, the continued inability of the government to bring into operation the Public Procurement Commission, a failure that allows Cabinet to have the final word in contract awards. And it was too the year in which the excesses of the Former Presidents (Other Benefits and Facilities) Act were put under a harsh spotlight and the misuse of state resources for partisan purposes assumed new heights.

It is difficult to tell whether those revelations had any impact on Guyana’s decline but the news confronted Mr Jagdeo’s successor President Donald Ramotar, with both an obligation and an opportunity to establish the first marker on his administration’s attitude to corruption. As stated above, Mr Ramotar delegated that role to his Finance Minister and the abrasive Ms Teixeira. If it was intended to be a clear signal for change, Dr Singh failed both in substance and in style, alienating many if not the entire audience. It is unlikely that if Dr Singh appreciated the significance of November 28, 2011 or the concerns sweeping the world about corruption, from India to the EU countries, Brazil and Russia, that he would have been so hubristic in his reaction to responses and questions from the floor.

Missing the message
Dr Singh might have missed too that Transparency International (TI) chair Huguette Labelle recently pointed out that, “This year we have seen corruption on protestors‘ banners be they rich or poor. Whether in a Europe hit by debt crisis or an Arab world starting a new political era, leaders must heed the demands for better government.”

One wonders how someone as bright as Dr Singh could fail to understand that to continue doing exactly as he did under the Jagdeo administration was neither an option nor wise.

In what was programmed for a 15 minute presentation, Dr Ashni Singh spent no less than forty minutes in a criticism of the methodology used by Transparency International in constructing the CPI and in telling the overseas guest and the diplomatic community about the unrecognized and unacknowledged efforts by the PPP/C administration to deal with corruption. It was all about the significant changes to the constitution during the Jagdeo presidency, the many select committees of the National Assembly, the best Procurement Act in the world and the tremendous strides made in the Audit Office.

Dr Singh seems to have ignored the logic that if the methodology is weak for one it is no different for the others, and that whatever he may think of the CPI it is closely watched by investors, economists, and civil society campaigners and the international financial institutions. He might have noted too the direct comments from the head of the European Union that the EU as a major donor to Guyana is paying close attention to how concerns about corruption are addressed.

The future, not the past
From the floor I pointed out to the Minister that three months ago Ms Gail Teixeira had regaled a TIGI launch ceremony with the same information but only in a slightly more abrasive manner. For the majority in the audience, those acheivements were about the past while their interest was in the future. In other words, the current interest is whether the Ramotar administration would treat with corruption any differently. For Dr Singh – and I guess he intends for all of us – the future would be a continuation of the work-in-progress.

Perhaps Dr Singh’s most ironic and astounding claim was the enhancements in the Audit Office and the number of staff they now have. It was a case of ‘never mind the quality, feel the width.” I could not publicly and in that forum remind the Minister of the lack of appropriate qualification of the holder of the top post in that office, the unprecedented lack of independence of the holder of the second most top post and the fact that both were acting in their positions!

Maybe he should speak with Greg Christie, Contractor General of Jamaica which scored 3.3 out of 10. Mr Christie called on Jamaicans to demand major changes or face stagnation and in language that resonated in the southern-most Caricom state, Mr Christie said, “It should now be abundantly clear to all Jamaicans that unless they demand monumental changes in the country’s existing moral, ethical and legal anti-corruption codes, and in its approach to the co-joint issues of transparency, accountability and good governance in the administration of the affairs of the Jamaican state, 10 years from now we will still be at the same place, talking about the same things.”

So what can we do? Here are some obvious steps:

1. re-constitute the Integrity Commission;

2. constitute the Public Procurement Commission;

3. revamp the Audit Office, replace the head and deputy head, remove the Office from the financial controls of the Minister of Finance and modify the processes and procedures by which it conducts its audits;

4. strengthen the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, widen its mandate and ensure that it is properly resourced and has access to independent professionals;

5. repeal and replace the Access to Information Act with one that brings in sunlight and that provides for protection for whistleblowers;

6. introduce anti-corruption legislation;

7. replace the expired Commissioner of Police and set up a strong anti-corruption unit in the Guyana Police Force;

8. punish in the court without fear or favour showing no mercy, those who feel it is their right to steal from society.

Threshold Country Plan/ Implementation Project was a major failure – conclusion

Last week Business Page began a discussion on the just concluded two-year US$6.7 million Guyana Threshold Country Plan/ Implementation Project (GTCP/IP) funded by the US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The column argued that the assessment announced by Director of Threshold Programmes, Mr Malik Chaka, that the project had been successfully implemented was inconsistent with the actual results of key elements of the project. That announcement was made on February 17, 2010 to assembled, mainly government dignitaries, and was echoed by President Jagdeo and Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh.

What each of these gentlemen must have known was more than seven weeks earlier, a meeting of the MCC Board chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was held to select the countries that would be eligible to receive Millennium Challenge Account assistance during 2010. Guyana, which was included in the lower income countries category, was not even mentioned in the release by the MCC of the decisions taken at the meeting. The countries selected were Cape Verde, Indonesia, Jordan, Malawi, Moldova, the Philippines, and Zambia.

So, before resuming an examination of the statement by Mr Chaka, I will briefly discuss the assessment by the MCC Board, and how it may have come to the decision to exclude Guyana from further MCC fund support.

The MCC decision
In determining eligibility, the Board compared countries’ performance on 17 transparent and independent indicators to assess, to the maximum extent possible, countries’ policy performance and demonstrated commitment to just and democratic governance, economic freedom, and investing in their people. Additionally, the MCC considers adjustments for data gaps, data lags, or recent events since the indicators were published, as well as strengths or weaknesses in particular indicators. From all indications, Guyana performed creditably based on the tabulated assessment, and probably did not suffer from any technical adjustments. Guyana’s failure then must have stemmed from additional quantitative and qualitative information, such as (absence of) evidence of a country’s commitment to fighting corruption and promoting democratic governance, and its effective protection of human rights.

Such additional information could include Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index which rates Guyana among the most corrupt countries in the world; Heritage Foundation which ranked Guyana at 155 of the 183 nations in terms of economic freedom, as well as oversized government which the Foundation considers one of the biggest barriers to economic development; and the World Bank Doing Business Guide which ranks Guyana at 101 of 183 countries for ease of doing business, with 1 being the best. Then of course the United States Embassy in Guyana would prepare its own commercial and other reports on Guyana, none of which can be assumed to be particularly flattering to this country.

Broken promise
It should come as no surprise therefore, that Guyana did not win MCC’s approval, despite the President’s attempt to discredit these various reports as soon as they were published. Last year for example, he dismissed Heritage as a “conservative right-wing body” and disclosed plans to invite researchers here to dispel fictions about the situation on the ground. It is not known whether President Jagdeo brought in the researchers, or whether his subsequent silence was because their findings did not support his allegation. What it does mean is that when next Guyana complains about any such adverse report, the failure by the President to justify his allegations against these reports would certainly not help our case. Indeed, the report released by Heritage in 2010 was even more damning, demonstrating that despite the use of his bully pulpit, the President has not succeeded in deterring those who use a slightly more objective yardstick to judge the country and government’s performance.

Guyana was rated by the Center for Global Development (CGD) as having passed all the benchmark indicators although it was substantially below the average of the “3-year budget balance” among comparator countries. The median score of all countries for this indicator was a negative 1.36%, while the percentage for “substantially below” was negative 3.34%. Guyana’s score was negative 8.46%. Using the overall score, the CGD had identified Guyana from among the low income countries most likely to be selected for MCA funding. That it failed to win the Board’s approval is a measure that the modern world judges governance well beyond the construction of roads, house lots and social facilities, useful and powerful political incentives though these might be. Unfortunately, this appears to have escaped the notice of our top politicians.

As Mr Chaka had said, failure in one year is not a disqualification from participation in succeeding years. But again, President Jagdeo who demonstrates a pathological inclination to micro-manage – and to do the work of even his “bright” ministers – does not help the country’s case by building close ties with Iran whose leader seems to enjoy daring the international community to declare his country an international pariah. With corruption assuming venal proportions, the country’s biggest budget dollar deficit ever, poor governance, and further evidence of bloated big government, the prospects for Guyana being selected for MCA funding any time soon do not appear too good. So let me take up where we left off last week.

The other tasks
I had noted then that MetaMetrics, one of the project’s US-based consultants had disclosed that the project would be conducted through six tasks. Suggesting that it was against these objectives that the success – or failure – of the project should be measured, I concluded based on the evidence available to the public, the country had performed badly in relation to the first three tasks. How then did we do with the others?

4) Improve Expenditure Planning, Management, and Controls
The revelations arising from the recently concluded budget debate, including the reckless abuse of contract employees; the serial violations of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 by ministers and officers; waste and corruption in the procurement processes both in central government and the regions; unqualified contractors; state subsidies to sugar, rice and electricity; the expending of billions on projects for which there is little or no proper technical, economic and financial assessment; the consistent weaknesses identified in the annual reports of the Audit Office; and the almost daily reports of frauds in public offices including the Guyana Revenue Authority, must more than adequately establish that we score poorly on 4) as well.

5) Empower and Create Capacity within Two Principal Parliamentary Fiduciary Oversight Committees
The two principal oversight committees are the Economic Services Sector Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Reports are that the first has been meeting regularly to identify entities and departments it would question about their performance. Press reports indicate that the committee has met with the loss-making Guyana Sugar Corporation and the National Insurance Scheme which is appearing increasingly under-funded. That this is happening is a positive, commendable development but the information available to the public is far too sketchy to allow an objective assessment of the effectiveness of the committee’s work. It would be useful if the public were allowed to attend the meetings of this committee and its reports made public.

The better known fiduciary oversight committee is the Public Accounts Committee which has as one of its principal mandates the oversight of the Audit Office and the review of that office’s Annual Audit Report. Those reports are always late, are often incomplete and raise more questions than answers. The last report of the Audit Office for 2007 is mainly a repetition of prior years’ issues that have not been resolved and those awaiting “policy decisions.”

While the parliamentary opposition complains that their views and recommendations are ignored, the government has been showcasing the committees as inclusive governance.

The fatal weaknesses in the Audit Office need no repeating. From top to bottom the office is poorly qualified and inadequately staffed, subject to strong political influences and instructions, in violation of its own act and the constitution.

6) Business Registration and Incorporation
While MetaMetrics on their website had referred to both registration and incorporation, I do not believe that those who actually carried out the consultancy in Guyana understood the difference between the two, or that there are two laws dealing with the registration of businesses. These are the Companies Act 1991 which allows for the registration of external companies, and the Business Names Registration Act which deals with unregistered companies.

I participated in a sensitization workshop on Friday December 4, 2009 at which grand claims were made about the reforms in business registration. I was amazed at the level of misunderstanding among the consultants and what they call success. For example they spoke of 96,000 business registrations and 5,600 company registrations, even as only 700 companies file tax returns annually! It must have been the greatest act of resurrection for more than 2,000 years.

One of the lead consultants said at that forum that when the World Bank does its next Doing Business Guide, he expects Guyana to jump by about one hundred places since the time for the registration will be less than countries now in the top 10! I had to point out to him that that is one of ten criteria under one of a score of benchmarks. He did not know that.

Another example of misinformation about the success is an official website that proudly boasts that it is possible to incorporate in Guyana a company by way of the internet, and the time has been significantly shortened. That is not true. Incorporation and registration require statutory declarations by attorneys-at-law and photo ID’s while forms risk being bounced for what appears to be the pettiest of reasons. Under new money laundering rules, commercial banks would not deal with a non-resident company until it has been registered or incorporated and even residents must now produce official, unexpired proof of identity.

There has been more rhetoric than reality in the boasts about success of the project. It has had significant overlaps with other projects such as the National Competitiveness Strategy, parliamentary reform, and other consultancies. This allows several persons and organisations to claim credit for success, and to disown failures. What no one has so far done is consider objectively whether the country gets value for money, with the competitiveness strategy an outstanding example. With scarcely any benefit accruing to the country from that project, it will be the taxpayers who will have to find the money to repay the IDB the five billion dollars we borrowed from them for the project. The poor taxpayer gets poorer.

Curbing corruption: The Corruption Perception Index – conclusion

Today we conclude this three-part article arising out of the publication of the 2008 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International which ranked Guyana at a lowly 126 out of a total of 180 countries surveyed, with a score of 2.6 out of 10. No one can say whether the ranking is correct in the strict sense. That would require knowledge of the other countries surveyed or assume an unerring degree of consistency in the process across all of them. What we can say, however, is that the methodology and sources meet the reliability and credibility test, and any government serious about the image of the country ought to take the perception very seriously.

No one needs to be convinced that corruption and its sidekick, bad governance, have developed in Guyana into a culture of impunity fuelled by an unacceptable level of public tolerance. Inconsistent with its boasts of achievements in rooting out corruption, the government fiercely resists any demand for public scrutiny and readily attacks anyone who questions its decisions and actions. Corruption finds shelter in opacity and over- centralisation of power, non-transparency in major financial dealings and contracts, absence of accountability, and excessive red tape in government departments − conditions that exist here.

Many-headed hydra
There is no longer any question whether there is corruption, but only the extent and cost. One columnist described the situation as a “kleptocracy,” a term applied to “a government that extends the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class at the expense of the population.” Corruption takes many forms and the cases are legion. It can be the straight bribing of politicians and officials to the extension of concessions, contracts and benefits to those in power. It can take the form of scholarships and plum jobs for relatives of those in power, advisory positions for party officials and all kinds of personal benefits for the politicians. All of these have a real cost to the economy and explain why despite all the tax write-offs and excessive taxation on the backs of the poor our per capita GDP is a mere US$1,000.

Compare Guyana with the African island of Mauritius, which at its independence in 1968 was more dependent on sugar than Guyana was. Its per capita GDP was a mere US$200 and its future gloomy at best. Forty years later, despite the absence of oil or mineral resources and having to import most of its food and energy, the country has a diversified economy and enjoys a per capita GDP of US$7,000. It was rated at 41 on the TI Index and is considered the top African country in the Doing Business Series of the World Bank.

Cost and cancer-effect
Corruption costs the treasury, but also the ordinary person and as one friend wrote to me in an e-mail, “Corruption is not just a morality abstraction. It can and does indiscriminately hurt persons, groups, organisations, communities and nations in concrete and practical terms. For example, the untutored motorist who has corruptly paid for their driver’s licence ‘under the table’ is really a lethal weapon that may be heading your way. And every time you pay for a public service which is nominally available without cost, you obviously and unnecessarily diminish your disposable income and your child may have to do, at least temporarily, without a school book.”

Parts one and two of this article showed that instead of the government taking action to curb corruption, it has dismantled, emasculated and politicised key institutions with the result that corruption goes undetected and unpunished. The question is why is there an absence of outrage at the failure of the government to deal with corruption, and whether it has now gone out of control?

It may be that we have been so accustomed to corruption that it is now part of one’s existence, part of doing business in Guyana. It is also cancerous as businesses find it necessary to adopt corrupt practices to compete. It may also be that corruption takes so many forms that it may not be immediately seen for what it is. The country failed to see the creation of Pradoville, the Cabinet Outreach to get Amerindian votes for the 2006 elections and the virtual abolition of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Integrity Commission either as themselves corrupt practices or the facilitators of corruption. Not even the emasculation of the Audit Office, the abuse of the Lotto and NICIL funds and the misuse of state funds for personal benefits arouse any attention these days.

Tackling the problem
For there to be any real war on corruption requires political will and personal and institutional commitment, all of which seem in very short supply. Threats by the President to deal with corruption and to bring the perpetrators to justice are almost a monthly joke. The PPP/C came to power with a pledge to deal with corruption and its own manifestos may offer some solutions. Here are some of its pledges:

1.  Its 1997 Manifesto pledged to have a Freedom of Information Bill approved in the 1997 Parliament.

2.  In 2006 it promised, among other things, to:

i)  introduce fiduciary oversight reforms that will give greater oversight responsibilities to parliament to monitor executive programmes;

ii)  to reform and strengthen the Integrity Commission to carry out its functions of holding public officers to account;

iii)   strengthen the Audit Office; and

iv)  work with Parliament to establish the Procurement Commission.

As Business Page has shown over the past weeks, the government has not only failed to deliver but has gone into reverse, even as its political control has increased.

The parliamentary opposition chairs the Public Accounts Committee but the PNCR which holds the chairmanship seems to have run out of ideas, energy and capacity to make a real impact. The AFC failed to win government support for a Freedom of Information Bill in Parliament and it and the PNCR have not been effective enough in asking searching questions in the National Assembly that would help to expose and reduce the level of corruption.

That leaves us with ‘civil society,’ which however defined, has shown little or no interest in stemming corruption. For all its feigned complaints about corruption, the private sector is willing to ask for and accept concessions which it knows smack of corruption and which compromise their independence. Beneficiaries themselves of goodies from the government, they are recycled into various forms and on successive days they are members of this or that commission or body, then the next they are in religion and the next, part of the EPA coalition. As a result civil society is so weak that even when it extracts a commitment from the government as in the aftermath of the Lusignan Massacre, it could and did nothing when the President broke his promise to have the outstanding constitutional commissions set up by May, 2008.

In the course of this article I have called on key members of civil society to play their part in cleaning up corruption in their own areas. Significantly this included the Integrity Commission that has been disgraced as much by the politicians as by the Commissioners. A similar call was made to the Gecom commissioners but that too has been ignored. Hopes then are receding and the fear is that things will get even worse.

This may be a last chance for the so-called ‘silent majority’ to find its voice and get involved in the fight against this cancer. Entering the public debate, pushing for resuscitation of the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman, mobilising public support against corruption, demanding accountability for public funds and lodging complaints when approached for bribes are all actions that the lowliest among us can take, so the excuses that we cannot change the situation are just that: a copout. Advocacy in the form of sustained pressure from civic groups and private sector organisations for fundamental reform of how government runs its business can be effective and save the country billions. For starters I would support the recommendation of the friend from whose e-mail I quoted above that we have a country chapter of Transparency International appropriately structured and populated. Any interest anyone?