– tied with Panama, Gambia, among others for 93rd positionTransparency International has released its latest global rankings, showing that while Guyana is considered one of 20 countries that have made improvements it has also taken a step backwards last year.Transparency International has been one of the foremost anti-corruption voicesAccording to the index, Guyana fell by one spot to the 93rd position out of 180 countries. The index placed Guyana’s corruption perception score at 37 to tie with Gambia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Mongolia and Panama.The highest ranked Caribbean country was the Bahamas at 29th place with a score of 65. It is followed by Barbados, which received a score of 68 for anti-corruption. The next Caribbean country is St Vincent and the Grenadines, which was ranked at 41 with a score of 58.The top-ranked countries on the list were Denmark at number one, and New Zealand at number two. The United States of America was ranked at 71, with a score of 22.Last year, Guyana scored 38 and was ranked 91 out of all the countries reviewed. Over the past few months, however, much has been said about the Auditor General’s 2017 report and the sole-sourcing of contracts.The sole-sourced Demerara River Bridge feasibility studyThis includes the Public Procurement Commission investigating and red-flagging the sole-sourcing of the Demerara River bridge feasibility study. The contract in question was awarded to the Dutch company, LievenseCSO, for a feasibility study into the new Demerara River Bridge.The parliamentary Opposition had requested that the Public Procurement Commission investigate the award of the $148 million sole-sourced contract.In its report on the matter, the Commission flagged Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson for requesting from Cabinet that the contract be sole-sourced instead of being processed through the Procurement Board as the law says should be done.After agitation from the parliamentary Opposition, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) had begun investigating the corrupt transaction. Right from the start, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had stressed the need for the unit to avoid showing favouritism to Patterson, particularly at a time when Opposition Politicians were being brought into SOCU for questioning on other matters.SOCU has since said it completed its investigation into the corrupt transaction, with the unit’s Head, Assistant Police Commissioner Sydney James confirming to this publication a few weeks ago that the file has been in the hands of the Police Legal Advisor since last year.This was confirmed when Guyana Times made contact with SOCU Head, Assistant Commissioner of Police (retired) Sydney James. In a brief interview, James noted that it has been in the hands of the Legal Advisor; Justice (retired) Claudette Singh, for several weeks.AG reportWhen it comes to the Auditor General’s report, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and now presidential candidate Irfaan Ali has been one of several public figures highlighting the fact that the report is littered with discrepancies and corruption for the 2017 fiscal year.“In the education sector, as it relates to the supply of dietary item under the Kato Breakfast School Feeding Programme, Region Eight, prices paid were significantly higher when compared to prices of similar items previously purchased by the Region. In total $33.6 million was expended on items whose prices were grossly inflated,” he had said last year.“Similarly under the $2.1 billion School Feeding Programme, eleven schools in Regions 7 and 9, couldn’t account for $52.1 million, a repeated misdemeanour that was highlighted in the preceding Auditor General report. Hence, at the Ministry of Education Tender Board level, procurement irregularities continued uninterrupted.”Ali had also highlighted parts of the report, where it was revealed that forty contracts totalling $15.9 million were awarded without the requisite Tender Board approval, of which thirty-five were awarded to one contractor at a total value of $12.8 million. “Moreover, numerous instances of overpayments were recorded. For example, two contractors, with respect to the installation of water distribution line and system, and night lighting system at the Synthetic Track and Field Facility, received $4.114 million and $4.767 million respectively in overpayments.”“In another instance, the contract for the construction of a chain link fence at the One Mile Primary School, Wismar, which was awarded by the Regional Tender Board for the sum of $12.583 million, received an overpayment of $727,000.”The corruption perception index did acknowledge, however, that Guyana is among 20 countries to have significantly improved their scores over the past seven years.