– ABC diplomats differ
By Edward Layne
As Guyana continues to score poorly in the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the Private Sector Commission (PSC) says it has a “big problem” with the way the surveys are being done, complaining that it was never asked to contribute to the surveys.
Speaking at a joint news conference with diplomats from America, Britain and Canada (ABC) on Friday, PSC’s Captain Gerald Gouveia questioned the credibility of the annual publication.
Gouveia while expressing the PSC’s concerns that the government is not doing enough to tackle corruption in Guyana, said the annual report does not reflect the true Guyana situation:
“I would say to you that I take great offence to that report and I would say to you that we have never been approached by the people who do those surveys to get our opinions. We don’t know where they are getting that opinion and so the Corruption Perceptions Index is one which seems to be lopsided.”
He went on to suggest that it should be mandatory for the PSC, a major player in the economy to be consulted on surveys of this nature.
“It should be compulsory that you engage the private sector because if there is any corruption taking place then the formal private sector would be in the middle of it. But to totally ignore the private sector and come up with this report is damaging our country,” said Gouveia who once headed the PSC.
Government’s efforts to root out corruption Gouveia said, is unimpressive, reiterating the PSC’s call for the urgent establishment of the Public Procurement Commission and the appointment of the now defunct Integrity Commission.
There have been widespread calls from anti-corruption activists, including Transparency Guyana Incorporated, the local body for TI, and the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) in this regard.
However, the diplomats from the ABC countries have a completely different view from that of Gouveia and the PSC on the issue.
Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Georgetown, Bryan Hunt, in defending the CPI said any statistical survey or one that is based on perceptions can be a constructive instrument once used correctly.
“If someone is taking the CPI and saying, ‘because of this rank, Guyana is more corrupt than (X country)’ then that would be an incorrect use of that tool. But what the tool tells you is how people perceive Guyana and that is important because the way people perceive Guyana, drives investment decisions both from the interior and from the exterior,” he explained.
British High Commissioner Greg Quinn said while acknowledging Gouveia’s concern of the PSC not being interviewed, his country sees the CPI as constructive since it gives a good sense of what people feel in terms of corruption in a country.
“And if people feel that there is a corruption problem then that by itself is an issue that is worthy of being addressed because that is the fundamental problem… People believe that there is a corruption problem and that is one of the issues which must not be ignored,” he stated.
In 2015, Guyana plunged to 119 out of some 168 countries on the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Corruption Perception Index with a score of 29. Guyana has maintained that score since the TI’s 2014 report. It is tied with Russia, Azerbaijan, and Sierra Leone. The CPI is based on expert opinions on Public Sector corruption.
Countries’ scores can be helped by open government where the public can hold leaders to account, while a poor score is a sign of prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption, and public institutions that do not respond to citizens’ needs.
According to TI, corruption is still a major problem around the world, but more countries are improving than worsening and the United States and the United Kingdom have reached their best rankings ever.
The Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide. The scores are measured from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).