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Fri 2nd Jun 2017

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Accountability and transparency lacking under Gonsalves

According to Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal, BSc (hons) MSc, MBA, accountability and transparency are lacking under Gonsalves.

There is a substantial lack of financial accountability and transparency in our country, and this is a gross abuse of power. There are people who want to add 2 plus 2 and call it 5. These people improvise to ‘fudge’ the accounts and this can cause long-term financial damage to our country.

According to Transparency International, information is fundamental to make informed decisions. Information is also power. Where it is not freely accessible, corruption can thrive and basic rights might not be realised. People can hide corrupt acts behind a veil of secrecy.

When our right to know is denied, we can’t hold decision makers or institutions to account for their actions.

Financial accountability and transparency are fundamental for good governance in SVG. The lack of access to the accounts of statutory bodies, means ordinary citizens cannot hold the ULP regime to account.

All statutory bodies’ financial statements, once they have been tabled in the SVG House of Assembly, must be made available for public scrutiny. For example, it is not possible to get sight of the CWSA financial statements that have been tabled in the SVG House of Assembly.

The International Airport Development Company - is it not a statutory body? We demand free access to all IADC financial statements that have been tabled in the SVG House of Assembly.

Corruption is the defined by Transparency International as the misuse of entrusted power for personal gain. In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.” – José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

The SVG 1979 Constitutionally appointed Director of Audit of Public Accounts has expressed concerns about access to public areas of accounts - for example, the Inland Revenue Department in 2008, (Source Audit Report 2008) - and the transparency of parts of the public accounts.

For the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, Gonsalves failed the audit of public accounts. When a minister is not competent in a specialised field, that minister should resign. Gonsalves has not resigned as the SVG Minister of Finance. Gonsalves should resign as the SVG Minister of Finance, so that we can get proper accountability and transparency.

For example, the previous UK Prime Minister David Cameron, pushed for a ‘NO’ vote in the UK BREXIT referendum. He did not get a majority ‘NO’ vote and he resigned.

When corruption is disguised as a legal procedure, it can often be difficult for ordinary citizens to fight back. Ordinary citizens are being denied accountability and transparency to public accounts.

There is a general lack of confidence in the financial accountability and transparency in our country. It is quite worrying, as it can cause public unrest and a climate of high rates of unemployment and gun crime.

Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal strongly contends that the Westminster model of government is not functioning in SVG, because some members of the SVG House of Assembly are not honourable under the Westminster model of government.

On 27 April 2017, the UK parliament passed an important provision of the Criminal Finance Bill that introduces a powerful new weapon into the anti-corruption arsenal: Unexplained Wealth Orders.

The provision specifically targets red flag situations where a person buying expensive items, like property or jewels, doesn’t appear to be wealthy enough to make the purchase. If the person has links to serious crime or access to public money, then the authorities can act.

SVG needs greater transparency and accountability of the public accounts. The SVG Freedom of information Act 2003 should have been proclaimed, so that we have proper access to government information.

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