SARA Head defends Agency against claims of political bias

first_img…Opposition says Agency being run by “political hacks”Although the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) has been accused of being politically biased, the Head of that agency has rejected those claims, stating that there was no evidence to prove that was true.Professor Dr Clive Thomas said he recognised that there have been some concerns raised regarding that very issue, but asserted: “We have not gone after any political person. There is no evidence of that.”Director of SARA, Professor Clive ThomasWhile recognising that SARA has also been heavily criticised for its work, the Head of the Agency said he did not take those criticisms seriously because they were baseless.“I don’t take the criticism as anything but a promotional exercise on the part of those who have something to hide,” he asserted, explaining that SARA served a significant purpose.Professor Thomas said the institution was operating within the confines of the law and everything that it was engaged in were serious matters of alleged misuse of public assets and funds.While commenting on the cases that SARA has worked on so far, Dr Thomas said these types of cases tend to be slow, mainly because case building is something that takes a lot of time and patience.“…Because you have to make sure that in this environment the first set of cases that we take to the court are successful so that we build on that reputation going forward,” he explained.However, while time could pose a problem, he said the sums of money involved were mostly huge and the cases were, therefore, worth the patience, explaining reasons for seeking training assistance from the Caribbean.He said, “Some cases [Special Organised Crime Unit] SOCU investigating, significant numbers have been taken to the point where they themselves have recommended to the [Director of Public Prosecutions] DPP that these cases be handed over to SARA for pursuit.”However, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has vigorously opposed the appointment of Dr Thomas; the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Aubrey Heath-Retemyer, Tacuma Ogunseye and Eric Phillips.The PPP claims that all four men have close ties with the current Administration and should not be entrusted to hold such high offices in Government. The Opposition also claims that all of the senior officials there are tainted political people and none of them are qualified on that ground alone.Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Anil Nandlall had argued that SARA, by the terms of the legislation that brought it into force, has tremendous law enforcement powers and only persons who are trained in the areas of law enforcement and related matters should be hired.He said, “This Bill (State Assets Recovery Agency Bill 2017) has no place for politicians. So, if any of the current people, they are tainted political people and none of them are qualified on that ground alone.”Former President Bharrat Jagdeo had also expressed his disappointment over the appointment of “political hacks” to SARA. Jagdeo had also made known the PPP’s intention to implement several changes to the SARA Bill 2017, if the Party was re-elected to office in 2020.With the recent passage of the Bill during the last session of Parliament, SARA was created out of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU). The PPP had expressed concerns about this legislation setting the stage for the creation of a parallel justice system.While noting that the Bill contained some good elements, Jagdeo, who is also the General Secretary of the PPP, said his Party would remove the ambiguity about private property.Jagdeo said his Party would also ensure that the head of the unit was accountable to someone else, as opposed to leaving it to him to make his own decisions.The PPP had argued that the Bill would create an environment that encouraged the violation of individuals’ constitutional rights and undermine the rule of law, since it has conferred on a single individual – the Director of SARA – powers that are 10 times greater than those of the Police Force.last_img read more

January 12, 2020 0