Perception of SARA impacts credibility

first_imgA few days ago, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Aubrey Retmyer, was reported as saying that his known political loyalty would not affect his work. His response was in the context of perceived bias by SARA against members of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) who continue to be placed before the courts. The PPP has consistently labelled the charges as baseless and frivolous and more recently the Party’s General Secretary described them as a means of reputational damage.To some, Retmyer’s statement can be seen as refreshing and as a hallmark of professionalism. To others, it would be mere defensive rhetoric. He accurately referenced Guyana being a small country and the difficulty of knowing persons who are not politically oriented. He also stated that he can have a political preference and still be unbiased in the execution of his duties.Such comments are laudable, a reflection of people’s expectations and captures the manner in which someone at that level should execute his/her duties. While one may have no reason to doubt his ability to function professionally, the context of what has unfolded since the establishment of SARA, must be examined.The Government, having promised their supporters during the 2015 election campaign to place PPP officials before the courts, has used SARA and the numerous forensic audits in that regard. Of importance is that during its three years thus far, some stakeholders have pointed out what they believed to be very questionable Government transactions including the Sussex Street Drug Bond, Jubilee Park and the $600 million plus drug purchase for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).The stakeholders who brought attention to these situations are of the belief that State assets may have been compromised and that there is more than enough merit for each to be thoroughly investigated by SARA.The reality is that only officials from the PPP Administration have being charged and placed into the court docks. The perception by many is that SARA is deliberately ignoring everything that has been presented in relation to Government’s alleged wrongdoings. With time, perception tends to become a substitution for reality and it is therefore extremely challenging for people not to believe.Perception or not, many are of the view that SARA, through its actions so far, is an entity solely to go after former PPP officials. From its mandate, that clearly is not the case. However, strong words such as ‘witch-hunt’ and ‘persecution’ have been used by the PPP and its supporters to describe what is being meted out to them. In that context of what continues to unfold, the usage of such terms not only seems unavoidable, but factual.This feeling is further fuelled by the lack appearance of any attempt by SARA to give similar priority to complaints raised in relation to alleged financial improprieties by Government officials in spite of necessary information reportedly provided. Clearly, the ordinary people will be unaware if efforts are ongoing discretely. Even if that were the case, the lack of provision of minimal information stacks on the growing perception.In this regard, some have questioned the Agency over what appears to be a reluctance to investigate the complaints alluded to. This therefore has potential to negatively impact its credibility which in turn can give credence to the belief of bias against one side. None can dispute that information first has to be verified. Then the credibility of that and potential evidence are determined to further an investigation.By that, it implies that initial work has to be done. Was it? If not, why? Therein may lie Retmyer’s dilemma. While as an individual he would want to ensure that his political allegiance does not cloud his professional judgement, the entirety of SARA’s operations has to be seen to be complying in tandem. The belief by many is that the entity’s judgement may be clouded by alleged political loyalty. Even if it is not true, there is that strong perception which is driven by a belief of political direction.In order for the Agency to have full acceptance from all on its national purpose, that perception has to change through impartiality and unfettered and holistic professionalism devoid of any political directive. It therefore becomes extremely challenging, again in the context noted, for any known political operative or affiliate at the helm to remove that perception despite good intentions.However, he has an opportunity to influence the raising of the bar on expected fairness to mitigate the strong belief of partiality. A genuine quest in that direction would be welcomed and would boost credibility.last_img