– agency signs MoU with FIU for increased cooperationBy Jarryl BryanThe State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) on Monday facilitated the first in a series of anti-corruption training seminars with Government agencies.This came on the same day the Agency announced an amnesty for those in illicit possession of State assets, as well as upcoming cases for misappropriation of State assets slated for court.FIU Head Matthew Langevine, along with SARA Director, Professor Clive ThomasThe Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) was the first of the targeted agencies, with several of its staff attending the exercise at the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC). Addressing the attendees was SARA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Aubrey Retmyer, who used various examples to emphasise the human impact of corruption and the underdevelopment it causes.Retmyer made it clear that Guyana must clean up its act as developed countries were observing its efforts. He cited an acquaintance’s experience at the Georgetown Public Hospital.“We could make this a far better country than what it is. Our health-care system in this country needs improving. But corruption will cause all kinds of things to go wrong. Two weeks ago, a person I know went to Georgetown Hospital. She went in there with a broken leg. And she died even before getting on the operating table. All they will say, if at all, is sorry. If we were to have a better health system, that would never happen. It’s not because (of) what we have or don’t have, but because our institutions are required to be much stronger and more vigilant.”The “insidious plague”Participants at the anti-corruption seminarUsing a quote that described corruption as a plague, former GRA Customs Head Lancelot Wills stressed the need for such exercises. He also made reference to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).“Our own Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated views corruption as an insidious plague that affects all of our being,” Wills said. “And not through the prisms of what we come to know as normal behaviour, which are in some ways corrupt but rather are outrightly corrupt.“That convention sets out in its basic tenets preventative measures which States should adopt so as to prevent through coordinated policies and establishing bodies, criminalising bribery, embezzlement and other forms of deviant behaviour which lead to undue influence and advantages and undue gain.”MoUA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was later signed between SARA and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) on Monday. It is understood that at this signing, SARA Director, Professor Clive Thomas announced an amnesty that could see persons who stole and want to voluntarily return State assets being able to negotiate a deal.At an interview earlier in the day, however, SARA’s CEO revealed that the agency would be taking its first batch of cases to court within another month.The MoU in question addresses issues relating to the sharing of information between the two agencies in the fight against financial crimes. Inter-agency collaboration is an important part of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism fight.“We are mandated, I think both by international law convention as well as domestic law, to cooperate because both of us share the same set of goals, and these relate to the reduction of corruption both as a national good and as an international obligation,” Thomas said.He noted that the increasing tendency globally was the recognition that the fight against corruption was a fight for the welfare and well-being of the broad masses of the population of the entire globe. Here, he cited the World Bank, which on its website, makes it clear that public corruption was the single biggest deterrent to development.