The passage of the State Assets Recovery Bill could propel Guyana’s international standing in the fight against corruption.
Earlier this month, Guyana was ranked 11 places higher on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2016. The country moved from 119, with a score of 29, in 2015 to 108, with a score of 34, in 2016.
The State Assets Recovery Bill (SARA) aims to recover unlawfully acquired state assets from public officers past and present through civil proceedings, and is in consonance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
The CPI annually measures a country’s “perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.” The CPI generally defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit.”
During a Press conference on Thursday at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Attorney at General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams SC said that the “SARA Bill is going to be a very effective Bill.”
The Ministry of Legal Affairs and Attorney at General Basil Williams speaking at a Press Conference Wednesday 25, 2017
The Bill seeks, “to ensure that persons who have filched the tax payers money from this country, state assets, are not given heads up so that they can flee the country and we can tell you billions of dollars are out there and that’s why we are on boarding SARA in Parliament,” the Minister added.
The Bill will also see the integration of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) into the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) to make its operations more efficient and will also empower the Director of the Agency.
The Bill is a civil recovery and civil remedy Bill meaning it is non-conviction based. There are also provisions in the Bill for the establishment of a State Assets Recovery Fund which will see SARA utilising 25 per cent while the remaining 75 per cent will go into the consolidated fund. It was drafted with input from representatives of the World Bank, the United Nations and British Expert Brian Horne.
The government has been working assiduously to fight against all forms of corruption. Back in October 2016, Guyana was officially removed off the watch list of the Global Anti-money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism compliance process of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Caribbean Countering the Financing of Terrorism compliance process of the Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) for complying with measures to prevent the laundering of money and financing of terrorism.