…says slew of suspicious financial activity …exposes questionable budgetary allocations By Michael YoungeWhile the security of the country is of paramount importance and must never be compromised, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is not prepared to condone any sort of corruption or skulduggery when it comes to the allocation of the country’s scarce financial resources.As a result, the Party on Thursday raised concerns over what it said appeared to be a slew of questionable allocations to the budget of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), which is being funded under the Ministry of the Presidency. The PPP maintained that it was also taken aback by what appeared to be slush funds that were created by the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government.Speaking during a media conference on Thursday, former PPP/C Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee expressed disappointment over the fact that the Opposition was disallowed from questioning a series of questionable and worrying allocations made to the GDF’s $12 billion budget, which climbed from $8 billion over the past two years.Rohee said that he was particularly concerned that corruption within the GDF was now reaching remarkable levels under the current Administration. Rohee claimed that if one were to examine the GDF’s budgetary allocation, one would notice that billions of dollars were being misallocated or siphoned off.The former Home Affairs Minister told reporters that the GDF was awarded more money than the entire Agriculture Ministry, which has responsibility for management of the agricultural sector. He posited too that more monies were allocated to the security agency when compared to the pittances that were given to the administrative regions.The PPP/C Member of Parliament argued that something was amiss as GDF’s allocation grew by a whopping $4 billion after it was increased from $8 billion to $12 billion over the past two years despite the fact that Guyana was not getting value for money being spent on various projects because of poor Executive oversight, and a lack of accountability and transparency.He said, “In the course of 2017, the Guyana Defence Force received a total of six supplementary allocations amounting to $171.9 million … apart from what was budgeted for … in addition to that, they received from the Contingencies Fund $185 million … In addition to the money they received in 2017, these are big bucks.”The PPP/C MP was confident that if he was given the opportunity to pose questions about the allocations, the Government may have been unable to defend the projects and sums that were being allocated to less than transparent ventures. He was equally disappointed over the Speaker’s decision to disallow questions on the remaining portions of the Ministry of the Presidency’s budget in the interest of good governance and curbing corruption.He said that a series of skulduggery was taking place at the Ministry of the Presidency and the GDF was being used to hide monies and slush funds which would in turn be accessed for political and other questionable practices.“You have cases where projects are being embarked upon by the GDF; contractors are being paid huge sums in advance, but the project was never completed … when these matters are raised in the Public Accounts Committee over the years, they accept the deficiencies,” Rohee said.Veterans’ CoI recommendationsThe parliamentarian also explained that he expected that there would have been allocations made in the GDF’s budget for key recommendations flowing from the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the state of veterans in Guyana which highlighted the need to remove the “tremendous challenges” that were currently hindering the entity’s transformation into a “small, versatile and robust” military.He reminded that another key recommendation was for serious consideration to be made to improving the engineering corps of the Army so as to improve its performance through recapitalisation.“The engineering corps is a very critical core, because they are the core ranks that deal with a number of issues within the Force.”Rohee said that more emphasis should have been placed on the development of a master plan and strategic plan that covered core areas of the GDF’s operation that could led to redounding benefits for the entity.
In commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations with Guyana, a Korean Consulate was on Friday evening commissioned at Thirst Park, Georgetown.Executive Member of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo who was given the role of Consul, told the gathering that he was being processed since three years ago and was later signed on to the position by President David Granger and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge.Dookhoo nonetheless pledged allegiance to the post. “I pledge to Guyana and South Korea that I will serve in this position with honour, dignity and the integrity that depicts this office,” he said.He added that he believes there are many markets in Korea which Guyana will beFrom left: Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge shares a light moment with the newly appointed Consul, Ramesh Dookhoo and the Korean Ambassador to Guyanaable to benefit from.The newly appointed Consul noted, “There is much opportunity for collaboration with our two countries, especially in the areas of engineering, technology, industrialisation and niche markets for Guyanese products in the South Korean market”.Meanwhile, the Korean Ambassador to Guyana, who is based in neighbouring Venezuela, noted how pleased he is to see a consulate being set up here.The Ambassador said he looks forward to the new Consul boosting bilateral relations between the countries. He said, “I hope it (the consulate) can work hard towards enhancing the bilateral relationship,” especially since the country does not have an existent Embassy in Guyana.On the other hand, acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge spoke of the benefits of the appointed Consul.According to him, “We hope that with the establishment of Consuls such as Ramesh Dookhoo’s will help to ensure that we build an economic base on which the economic diplomacy on which we’ve embarked will thrive”.He added that he is expectant that the Consul will be able to deliver for the benefit of both countries. The new consulate is housed in Queenstown, Georgetown.The South Korean consulate is one of 36 foreign representations in Guyana, and one of 35 foreign representations in Georgetown.