The government will soon be tabling witness protection and whistleblower legislations in the National Assembly as it continues its efforts to fight crime and corruption in a framework that offers greater protection to persons who volunteer valuable information.
Under the direction of Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Basil Williams, the Attorney General’s Chambers recently completed drafts of the Witness Protection Bill 2016 and the Protected Disclosures (Whistleblower) Bill 2016.
Public consultations on the two Bills began on Monday at the Pegasus Hotel.
It attracted other government ministers and officials and members of the diplomatic and business community who participated in a plenary session to exchange views in support of improving the Bills’ effectiveness.
The Attorney General said it is the policy of the government to have consultations on all Bills before presenting those Bills to the National Assembly.
Minister Williams hopes that with the introduction of these Bills Guyana will be better ranked on the international corruption perception index in coming years.
He explained that the two Bills are among several other pieces of legislation intended to address a “particular mischief that had crippled the country for a number of years.”
That mischief, he explained, was primarily corruption.
“Let me remind you that President David Granger had said that corruption and bribery have no place in public service. Instead, the public service must be characterized by persons of integrity, impartiality, and intelligence,” he added.
The whistleblower legislation’s core aim is to combat corruption and other wrongdoings by encouraging and facilitating disclosures of improper conduct in public and private sectors and to protect persons making those disclosures from any detrimental action.
It makes provision for the establishment of the Protected Disclosures Commission to deal with persons who may make disclosures and of whom the disclosures may be made.
It will assess the manner and form of the disclosures and institute a special procedure for making disclosure related to national security.
The Commission will also be tasked with carrying out investigations and gathering evidence while offering immunity from criminal, civil and disciplinary proceeding to persons volunteering information.
No immunity, however, will be offered to the person who makes the disclosure if he/she was the perpetrator or an accomplice.
On the other hand, the Witness Protection Bill provides for the establishment of a program for the protection of certain witnesses.
It will see the establishment of a Witness Protection Programme and Agencies to consider cases for protection and will also receive applications from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Williams is expected to take both pieces of legislation to Parliament before the end of the year for a debate and its subsequent passage. (by Kurt Campbell)
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