Bribery Has Become The Norm – By Annan Boodram

Guyana: Bribery Has Become The Norm –  By Annan Boodram

Opinion - commentary -analysisA young man, whose truck does almost daily trips from the Corentyne to Georgetown, was stopped by a policeman on the approaches to the Berbice River bridge, and cited for having a rider in the cab without a seat belt – there were three riders there but only two wore seat belts. So he had to bribe  – $5,000 each on days one, two and three.

On the fourth day, he handed his cell phone to one of the riders and told him to hold the phone so it was visible to young policeman. Then he went up to the policeman and said, “You see that cell phone? I have pictures of you receiving money from me for the past three days. If you ever stop this truck again I will send those photos to newspapers and to your superiors.” That particular policeman never again stopped his truck again but was seen stopping other vehicles along the same stretch of road.  

A drunken businessman was stopped by a policeman, who demanded his license and registration, and then told him, “Come to the station tomorrow and collect your documents.”  The next day, upon the businessman’s arrival at the police station, a sum of $20,000 was demanded of him. After forking over the money he was given his documents and sent home.

Indeed bribery is the norm in Guyana. Yet the various audits commissioned by the current government focused significantly on corruption, real or perceived, with little mention of bribery, which has become embedded in every facet of life in Guyana. This writer has listened to narration of percentages built into contracts, of greasing hands to prevent the royal run around at every level of the bureaucracy, of drivers on the road preferring to give a ‘lil’ piece to the police rather than facing the hassle of going to court and losing much more in terms of earnings, of bribes speeding up every process from getting drivers license to obtaining copies of birth and death certificates.

The fact that the current government claimed that raising salaries of ministers was a move aimed at preventing bribery in an indication that the David Granger administration is fully aware of the pervasive nature of bribery in Guyana. So if raising salaries is the way to go then should not salaries be raised across the board?   The fact, however, is that in Guyana bribes are often offered even before being asked for. When this is not done, a system of well-known, non-verbal cues are displayed to get the message across. This issue is compounded by the fact that Diaspora Guyanese, who do not want to be bothered by the hassle, will willingly shell out bribes for whatever.

In effect stamping out bribery is not about raising salaries, but rather about changing norms, behavior and any such impacting mechanism must be aimed at the entire equation –  the bribe giver plus the bribe taker.  Such a mechanism must also be institutionalized so it does not operate at the whims and fancies of anyone. It must be consistently applied and supported by the legal and other systems of consequences. So perhaps, since it’s the season of commission of inquiries (COI), how about one on bribery that would take evidence, foster consultations and then craft the desired mechanism? In the meanwhile a start can be made by the Police Complaints Authority, and other like minded institutions, ensuring that every allegation of bribery made is investigated in a timely manner and where necessary appropriate action taken.

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  • Deen  On August 22, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Bribery and corruption has long been a part of the police and other departments of government in Guyana. It’s certainly is a born to avoid wasting time to challenge the police power and authorities, and also bribery is an expeditious means of getting jobs, acquiring documents, processing applications, avoiding being charged or found to courts, blackmail, etc.
    Guyanese break the laws and the police and others capitalize on them and request bribes. It’s a cancer in the Guyanese society.
    If a commission is ever appointed to investigate the magnitude of bribery and corruption in Guyana, the pervasive of this societal disease will be seen as an epidemic
    It’s one of the greatest injustices in Guyana that continues to prevail.

  • tulsiedas402sqn@Gmail. com  On August 22, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Bribery in Guyana is an Endemic disease, rooted in a large part by the Traffic Police Dept., I am a Guyanese expat, went back for visit, joined a taxi on my trip to Georgetown, the Police stopped the car and ask the driver where is my cut, with his hand in the open position the driver complained he did nothing wrong he said pay up or I give you a ticket for speeding, I called him over and said this man did nothing wrong, he said you look like you from abroad shut yu mouth he get paid every day I got to wait till the end of the month how am I suppose to feed my family, driver gave him $50.00. Minimum red.

    The passport a haven for bribery galore hand over a Hugh sum of money a you are out of the line up with passport in hand.

  • Deen  On August 22, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Tulsiedas, yes, coincidentally, when I visited Guyana a few years ago, as a passenger in a taxi, I witnessed this bribery routine. Also, many years ago, at the passport processing office. Somethings never change in Guyana. Bribery and corruption are deep rooted and pervasive in the country among the people and the government. In addition to drugs, burglary and mugging, Guyana steals the cake for bribery and corruption.

  • CLAUDE  On August 22, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Change should begin from the top. The government officials especially in the last PPP robbed Guyana blind. We were hoping for a change with our new Government but official corruption continues. Yes, bribery and corruption permeates all facets of Guyanese lives. But are we focusing on the clerks and police who are probably struggling to make ends meet.? Yes, the bribery they demand is wrong but the kick-backs and corruption that higher officials are involved in is by far worse. This is where the corruption should be stopped first. It will start to change when some of these higher officials are sent to prison for wrong doings.
    Then the clerks and police will take notice. Laws must be enacted to make these offenses punishable and the necessary steps set up to make it possible to report a bribery without the possibility of retaliation from that criminal.
    Our new President has been portrayed as a honest decent human being. (Portrayed by Freddy Kissoon whom I read often, being a columnist who tells it like it is.)
    That is commendable, but does he have the necessary strength to do what is necessary to put Guyana on the right path.
    If he is a strong leader he should start with his own party officials who seem to be heading along the same corrupt path that the PPP left. That will not be an easy task and even more difficult as this Government is a coalition. You are the President, do what strong presidents do!

  • Deen  On August 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Claude, good point, but as we know there are at least two minister in Granger government who have been suspects of corruption. It appears that based on politics, and we all know the game “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” nothing will be done….and the endless vicious cycle of corruption will continue. With the forthcoming oil revenue, I predict more corruption will take place and the poor people will continue to wallow in poverty.

  • Kman  On August 24, 2016 at 8:06 am

    This bribery thing has been going on since the time of the British rule, however, it has risen to new heights. The author of the article alludes to the fact fact that the President is aware of his ministers taking bribes that why the president gave them a huge salary increase. That says it all in a nutshell folks. Run if you can and don’t look back.

  • guyaneseonline  On August 26, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Big corruption scheme in the police force
    Aug 26, 2016 Kaieteur News – Features / Columnists – Freddie Kissoon

    It didn’t make sense to me. I thought about it, but in the end accepted that the Guyana Police Force is one of the worst in the world, and will continue to be a sordid, unprofessional bunch. So I stopped thinking about it. Actually I had the answer; so I thought. My conclusion was that it was a way of the lower ranks topping up their salary.
    What am I talking about? Each time I saw the occurrence of a random traffic stop, and wrote about it, it continued all over Guyana the next day, the very next day. Many times I would call the commanders of the various stations and they would assert in unambiguous language that the force has discontinued random traffic stops. But the station of that very commander, the very next day, would do the random stops. I could only have found one answer – the constables want some money.
    Read more:

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