Criminal charges against Ministers…expresses alarm over info leaks at SOCUThe Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated (TIGI) on Monday said that it remained concerned about the nullification of charges by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and perceived witch-hunting by law enforcement agencies.TIGI expressed the belief that a legal challenge could be mounted against the DPP’s discontinuance of the criminal charges which the parliamentary Opposition had filed against several Government Ministers.“TIGI believes that any current or former Government official or employee who mismanaged or misappropriated State resources should be held accountable and where appropriate be made to make amends inclusive of returning what was taken or given away.”According to TIGI, as long as there is merit in the matters identified, alternative motives are of little importance.In April, public misconduct charges were filed against Finance Minister Winston Jordan; Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson; and Public Service Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall as the attorney, and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Juan Edghill as an applicant.They alleged a breach of the Procurement Act in relation to the expenditure of $906 million in public funds to a private company, Homestretch Development Inc, for construction of the controversial D’Urban Park Project, which has, for some time now, been a contentious issue.Jordan and Patterson were jointly charged with misconduct and abuse of public trust for having allegedly authorised the payment, while Dr Roopnaraine, who was a director of the company, was charged with alleged misconduct and the abuse of public trust for having received, in his capacity as director, the $906 million in public funds while serving as Minister.The charges were discontinued, just days after the dismissal of another set of charges against Government Ministers Volda Lawrence and Dr George Norton over the sole-sourcing of more than $600 million in drugs and other pharmaceuticals and the rental of a house in Sussex Street to be used as a drug bond at a cost of $12 million monthly.The DPP’s grounds for dismissing the charges had included the failure to file a police report. But Nandlall had affirmed that there was nothing in the law prohibiting the filing of charges without the Police being alerted and according to TIGI, it has also found nothing to justify the DPP’s decision.“There are legitimate questions to be answered in relation to the Sussex Street pharmaceutical bond deal, procurement in the health sector and the D’Urban Park Project. TIGI agrees that the proper procedures must be followed in all legal matters. However, there are unanswered questions about the path taken by the DPP to disallow the charges against current Ministers of Government,” TIGI declared.“We have also been unable to verify that such provisions are made in the law, notwithstanding the powers of the DPP articulated in Section 187 of the Constitution. We, therefore, believe that the decision of the DPP can and should be challenged in court. Such a challenge will clarify the appropriate procedure and serve as a guide for future actions.”Witch-huntingThe group went on to express concern over the perception of witch-hunting hanging over the heads of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). This perception has remained prominent especially as, to the public’s knowledge, the Agency has never investigated members of the current Government.The group also pointed to the inappropriateness of the threats SARA executive Eric Phillips had issued against Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo in March of last year.“SARA’s mandate is too important for it to be compromised by any single individual,” TIGI indicated. “We are also floored by the fact that SARA was burglarised and wonder at the confidence this inspires in its international partners and in Guyanese.“SARA is in need of a clear and transparent policy on case selection and on the basis for deciding whether to pursue civil or criminal prosecution, and on the circumstances under which it will allow individuals to return assets and avoid prosecution.”When it comes to SOCU, TIGI expressed alarm over the headlines and apparent leaks concerning the arrests of former Government officials. According to the transparency body, SOCU must address these issues or it will continue to be seen as a tool used to embarrass the former Government.