– body protects constitutional rights of citizens – PresidentBy Shemuel FanfairPresident David Granger said the appointment of the Local Government Commission will see protection of the constitutional rights of citizensAfter years of delay, the appointees to the Local Government Commission (LGC) were on Monday sworn in at State House by President David Granger, who reiterated that the move reflects his Administration’s commitment to good governance. However, the operationalisation of the body comes 19 months after the historic return of Local Government Elections in Guyana, and it ends a lengthy back and forth between Government and the Opposition over the non-functionality of the constitutional organ.The Commission’s members are Mortimer Mingo, Clement Corlette, Marlon Williams, Jo Ann Romascindo, Andrew Garnett, former Local Government Ministers Norman Whittaker and Clinton Collymore, and former Georgetown Town Clerk, Carol Sooba. In his short address, President David Granger offered congratulatory remarks to the Commissioners, urging them to execute their functions with integrity. He nevertheless noted that the appointment of the LGC will resolve disputes that may arise at the local government level, and added that this Commission falls in line with Government’s commitment to establish other constitutional bodies, including the Office of the Ombudsman, the Judicial Services Commission and the recently appointed Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).Former Town Clerk of Georgetown, Carol Sooba was sworn in as one of the LGC CommissionersThe Head of State pointed out that the rights of all citizens will be respected.“I pledge to ensure that the institutions mandated by our Constitution will continue to be honoured,” the President expressed.He encouraged Commissioners to uphold their mandate which would promote confidence in the local government system.Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan told reporters that the LGC will commence its work after members select a Chairman. The Commission would, among other things, have control over who gets appointed as officials in the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NSCs) and other local authorities.In addition, it would have to approve budgets for the NDCs. By law, the commission is to be made up of eight members. These members include four nominated from the Government, one from the unions and three nominees from the Leader of the Opposition.The parliamentary Opposition had named its nominees to the Local Government Commission since last year. However, it was reported that the Government did not submit its nominations which resulted in deadlock. One of the first public deadlines that Communities Minister Bulkan gave for the body to become functional was at a press conference during the time of the March 2016 Local Government Elections. When asked, during the latter part of the month for an explanation, the Minister had moved the deadline to the end of June 2016.In the Budget estimates for 2016, some $30 million was allocated by the Government to the non-functioning Commission. When asked, Bulkan had stated that this was to allow the Commission to operate independently to Central Government.
In running FCPA Professor, I have conducted daily searches six years running for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act content. The flow of FCPA and related information is often predictable at certain times of year.This time of year, FCPA Inc. and others look for fresh angles regarding FCPA topics.So as the holidays approach, it was not surprising to find articles discussing the FCPA risks of holiday gift giving. (see here “Don’t Let a Season of Giving Turn Corrupt;” here “Tis the Season to Revisit Gift Giving Policies and Procedures;” here “Monitoring Gifting Policies During the Holiday Season;” here “Giving Corporate Holiday Gifts Without the Bribery Risk;” here “Giving the Perfect Gift: 4 Tips for Avoiding Compliance Risks This Season;” here “Corporate Holiday Gift Giving and Anti-Corruption Compliance.”).Yes, certain FCPA enforcement actions have involved gift giving, including in connection with holidays and festivals – such as Chinese New Year and India’s Diwali Festival.However, as previously highlighted in this post (a review of the book “Suspicious Gifts“), throughout human history gifts have been a respected and legitimate form of gratitude and generosity, serving as a social glue important to any cohesive society. Yet, and invoking a concept from the book, in this current era of anti-corruption enforcement, everything it seems is viewed through a “bribery gaze.”When you want to be generous – it could be bribery!When you want to be friendly – it could be bribery!When you allow yourself to be invited – it could be a bribe!When you accept a present or prize – it could be a bribe!This “bribery gaze” has social and public policy consequences. As the author of the book argued:“Campaigns to eliminate these gift exchanges are at the same time campaigns to restrict the gamut of courtesy or ritual exchanges. The manifestations of courtesy, gratitude, and social bonds, which are so important as social glue in any cohesive society, are not just called into question, but criminalized.”This holiday season ought not be gift-less because of the FCPA or any other similar law.Indeed, as the DOJ/SEC issued FCPA Guidance states:“A small gift or token of esteem or gratitude is often an appropriate way for business people to display respect for each other. Some hallmarks of appropriate gift-giving are when the gift is given openly and transparently, properly recorded in the giver’s books and records, provided only to reflect esteem or gratitude, and permitted under local law. […] The FCPA does not prohibit gift-giving. Rather, just like its domestic bribery counterparts, the FCPA prohibits the payments of bribes, including those disguised as gifts.”My own two cents on the FCPA risks of gift giving around the holidays is as follows.During this season of giving, I think it would be wise for companies not to view everything through a bribery gaze, but with a sense of practicality. The corporate community – which is frequently bombarded with doomsday scenario after scenario by FCPA Inc. – sometimes needs to take a step back to realize that in order to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions there has to be corrupt intent. While it may seem a bit counterintuitive, gift giving during the holidays can actually be less risky because it is the holiday season and gestures of good will are common. Companies should be more concerned with a gift that occurs outside the normal periods of gift giving.