Georgetown : The Protected Disclosures Bill first read on November 11, 2017, was today read for a second time by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams S.C., who noted that the Government is on an irreversible path to countering corruption is all forms.
In commending the bill for the House’s approval, the AG said: “We trust that corruption in all its forms and state assets of whatever nature would be safe and secured henceforth.”
The bill seeks “to combat corruption by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in the public and private sectors, to protect persons making those disclosures from detrimental action, to establish the Protected Disclosures Commission to receive, investigate or otherwise deal with disclosures of improper conduct and to provide for other related matters.”
The Attorney General told the House that the provisions of this bill are well known to employees of the state and have been signed on to by stakeholders.
Opposition Member of Parliament Adrian Anamayah, while questioning if this is the best model of the bill for Guyana, made clear the opposition’s support for aspects of the bill. He also questioned the necessity of the Protected Disclosures Commission.
His colleague, MP, Harry Gill called for the bill to be sent to a Special Select Committee for further examination.
In defence of the bill’s passage, Government MP, Charrandass Persaud said the establishment of the Commission will offer a greater sense of security for those persons making disclosures, with information on the investigations to be presented in an efficient manner.
MP Persaud posited that “The Commission has a mandate to present to the complainant a report of its finding and perhaps what action or actions may be taken or may be contemplated.”
Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan in his presentation reminded that Guyana has signed onto the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Corruption and it is in this vein that the Whistleblower Bill was crafted.
Minister Ramjattan expressed hope that the passage of the bill will challenge the capacity of the citizens to speak out on wrongdoings. He emphasised the need for public awareness.
Acknowledging the cost attached to the operationalising of the Protected Disclosures Commission, the Public Security Minister called on the Opposition side of the House to focus more on the cost to the stability of the society, if such a bill is not enacted.
“It is consistent with bills passed in other Commonwealth countries…and other non-commonwealth countries. It has the highest standards of what we want for Guyana,” the Minister said.
The Bill also allows for complaints to be made 12 years prior to the enactment of the legislation.
Minister Ramjattan added that the Protected Disclosures Commission is important since it will ensure confidentiality and the veracity of the disclosures to the benefit of the country, thus excluding malicious complaints.
In closing arguments, AG Williams in response to Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira said there is a connection between the Protected Disclosures Bill and the Witness Protection Bill.
He discounted arguments that the bill is deficient, noting that it is unique to what obtains in Guyana.
The seven-part Bill containing 32 Clauses was passed in the National Assembly.