Mr. Nigel Hinds’s letter “Masters of Finance – Singh, Greenidge & Ram” (Stabroek News, March 15, 2012) has drawn sharp comments on the meaning and intent of the term “best and brightest”, particularly from those who felt that Mr. Hinds was unjustifiably praising Dr. Ashni Singh, the Minister of Finance.
In fact, “best and brightest” is a term of deprecation going back at least to a letter in a 1769 publication in which the writer used it mockingly and ironically to describe King George III’s ministers. Exactly two hundred years later, its place in infamy was sealed when journalist David Halberstam used it as the title of his # 1 bestseller which exposed the intellectual bankruptcy of the whiz-kids of John Kennedy’s disastrous policy that led to America’s ignominious defeat in the Vietnam War.
That it was in that context of derision that Mr. Hinds identified Dr. Singh is clear from his paragraph calling for his “cleansing the Augean Stables filled with questionable deals, those facilitated by National Commercial and Industrial Development Limited (NICIL), sale of Sanata Textile Mills, Amaila Falls Project engineered by the infamous Fip Motilal, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] contracts with New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation [New GPC], and the absence of lottery funds from Consolidated Fund to name a ‘few’”.
It is public knowledge that Dr. Singh was personally involved in every one of these “questionable deals”, and in the case of the “infamous” Fip Motilall, Dr. Singh’s ministry caused to be issued through GINA a three-page attack of undignified calumny on “Ram-like critics” who, on the bizarre selection of Fip Motilall as contractor for the road to the Amaila Falls, dared to expose Motilall as a fake contractor. They have been proved right and Dr. Singh wrong.
In the case of the GPHC and New GPC contracts, it is the Dr. Singh-controlled National Procurement and Tender Administration Board that annually approves single source contracts, and outrageous of all, Dr. Singh chairs the truly egregious National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) which spearheaded the tender for the Amaila Road Project.
But these were only a few examples of Dr. Singh’s “brightness”. Here are some others:
1. Every single audit report since Dr. Singh became Minister of Finance reminds us that “the Contingencies Fund continues to be abused”. And the abuser: the Minister of Finance in whom section 41 (2) of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) invests sole powers and responsibilities over the Contingencies Fund.
2. Dr. Singh’s Finance Ministry has underwritten every one of the corrupt transactions of the Jagdeo Administration since October 2006, including the infamous Pradoville 2 for which Dr. Singh’s NICIL allotted house lots to former President Jagdeo, Cabinet Members, members of NICIL board and friends, all at below market price; computer purchases from a Brooklyn barbershop location; sole sourcing of school books for $90 million; disastrous multi-billion dollar road and other infrastructure contracts; and the sale and giveaway of state properties.
3. On all but one occasion of Dr. Singh’s presentation of the [annual] mid-year report under section 67 of the FMAA, the report pre-dates by months the date of its publication, prompting integrity concerns about Dr. Singh.
4. Dr. Singh has never once complied with section 21 of the FMAA dealing with conditional appropriations, concealing the real annual budget deficit. . Nor on his own recent admission in the National Assembly, has he ever complied with the section 24 (4) of the FMAA, on each of the fourteen occasions he came to the National Assembly for supplementary funds.
5. Dr. Singh has begun to use creative financing to plug the ballooning budget deficit caused by over-spending and non-receipt of the Norway money. In 2010 he treated $11.117 billion as Miscellaneous Income, “the net result of the ‘closure’ of inactive accounts, and retiring long outstanding obligations in relation to the issuance and redemption of Government Securities.”
6. Dr. Singh was central to the sale of state property and the unlawful granting of tax exemptions to the Ramroop group, concessions which have been abused and which any responsible Minister of Finance would revoke. In these transactions, Dr. Singh had not one but three occasions to check the validity, legality and propriety of the transactions: as Minister of Finance, as Chairman of NICIL, and as a senior Cabinet minister. He missed them all.
7. As Minister of Finance, Dr. Singh controls the Consolidated Fund and has allowed the proceeds from the Lottery to be placed in a “special” account outside of the Consolidated Fund. He approves the operations of this extra-ordinarily special account from which only his mentor and protector former President Jagdeo could spend.
8. Dr. Singh was part of a transaction for $4 billion in which there was sufficient evidence to refer Minister of Housing Irfaan Ally for misleading the National Assembly.
9. Dr. Singh has presented five budgets to the National Assembly totaling $627.5 Billion. During that time, we have had no natural disasters or economic shocks undermining the Budget. Yet, during the same period, Dr. Singh has returned to the Assembly with fourteen (14) supplementary appropriation bills covering over 440transactions totaling $67.5 billion – conditions that would embarrass even a mediocre budget controller. For good measure, none of the transactions involving drawings from the Contingencies Fund, covering a minimum of $19.5 billion, was brought within the “next sitting” of the National Assembly timeframe required under section 41 (5) of the FMAA.
10. Dr. Singh has ministerial responsibility for the National Insurance Scheme and the Insurance Act. To him therefore, is due more than a quarter share of the blame in Jagdeo-Dr. Singh-Luncheon-Geeta Singh quartet for the NIS loss of $5 billion in Clico.
11. As Finance Minister Dr. Singh would have known of the mistake that led to the excessive VAT rate of 16%. In order to disguise the effect of the mistake and a windfall of close to twenty billion dollars, he sought supplementary spending provisions of $18 billion (24% of the Budget) in the last two months of 2007! “Brightness” is certainly not the word to describe such shocking conduct. No wonder, neither Dr. Singh nor former President Jagdeo has responded to my several public challenges to them to release an unredacted copy of the report of the Barbadian consultant who was contracted to carry out the exercise. Together Mr. Jagdeo and Dr. Singh have so far gouged the Guyanese taxpayers of more than fifty billion dollars.
12. Dr. Singh exercises professional, personal and private control (PPP/C) of the Audit Office in a manner that is unique to Guyana but inconsistent with the Constitution, the FMAA and the independence rules of the auditing profession, with obvious effect on thequality of the audits. .
As readers would expect, such a letter cannot address all the financial shenanigans hidden in the spending of $627 billion (US$3,135 million) during the last Parliament. Only a thorough investigation initiated by the National Assembly will reveal how the “best and brightest” Dr. Singh and his mentor, that other “best and brightest” Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, have mismanaged the country’s finances for five years while taking the entire country for one inglorious ride.
‘Fip’ Motilall secures US$12M for selling hydropower licence to Sithe Global
Makeshwar ‘Fip’ Motilall will receive at least US$12 million in profit from the entire affair.
Synergy Holdings was originally awarded the contract to construct the Amaila Falls Hydro Power
Plant but after failing to secure financiers to back the project, was forced to sell his licence to Sithe Global.
A recent visit to Guyana by the top brass of Sithe Global, including its Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wrobel, afforded a chance for an answer to be had to the cost of the licence to Sithe Global.
Apart from disclosing Sithe Global’s rate of return on its US$152M investment in the hydroelectric project is 19 per cent, Wrobel also disclosed that Motilall will be walking away with some US$12M for flipping his licence to that company.
“Synergy is entitled under the agreement of the transfer of that asset to financial compensation upon successful completion of the project.”
Those were the words of James McGowan, Senior Vice President (Development) at Sithe Global and Wrobel disclosed this past week that the compensation will total some US$12M.
Wrobel says that the company is attempting to place a new face on things today as a result of the previous lamentations on the silence of all partners involved
“Our role is very clear….we are a builder, a designer, a developer of energy projects….we have never really encountered a situation before where the politics is so intermeshed in the power situation,” Wrobel said as he sought to explain why the company had remained silent for such a long time.
Wrobel said that the money will include some of the early preparatory works such as feasibility studies but should the project successfully close then Motilall earns some US$12M.
“His expenses including early works, come out of that,” Wrobel told this publication.
Synergy Holdings Inc. was first listed as the developer to design, build, own and operate a hydroelectric plant in Guyana.
In 2002, Synergy Holdings and Harza International were granted a licence by the Government of Guyana under the Hydro-Electricity Act for the development of a hydroelectric plant at Amaila Falls.
The licence was reportedly amended and extended in 2004 when Harza pulled out leaving Synergy as the sole licensee. The licence was again extended in 2006.
Synergy Holdings was granted a US$15.4 million contract to build the access roads to the proposed site for the hydropower plant. That contract was rescinded on January 12 last.
Synergy Holdings Inc in 2007 identified Sithe Global as a potential investor in the project.
In 2008, Sithe Global put out to tender, the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) as part of the program and after vetting five bidders, China Railway was chosen as a contractor.
Synergy Holding’s Licence was formally transferred the following year to Sithe Global.
Motilall is himself no stranger to controversy as investigations found a plethora of evidence suggesting that Motilall could not have undertaken the Amaila Falls road.
The Amaila Hydropower Project is a planned hydroelectric project (approximately 165MW capacity) to be located in western Guyana.
The project also includes a new 270 km transmission line and new substations near Georgetown.
Guyana Government finally gets rid of Fip Motilall the agarbattie sales man turn highway builder/hydro engineer
BREAKING NEWS: Fip Motilall’s Amaila Falls access road contract quashed
Written by Kwesi Isles
Thursday, 12 January 2012 12:14
Government on Thursday announced that it has terminated the contract held by Fip Motilall for the construction of the Amaila Falls access road.
Works minister Robeson Benn made the announcement at a news briefing saying the action was due to the repeated delays in completing the project among other things.
“As of December 2011 the Contractor, Synergy Holdings Inc, had completed only 40 percent of the works despite repeated urgings and interventions from the Project Engineer and the Consulting Firm to have the project completed,” Benn said.
He added that the ministry will be taking steps to complete the remaining works.
Government had advanced Motilall
More details to follow.
Despite miles of distance and years of time our history emerges to explain the past, clarify the present and predict the future.
Recently, while at a park in Vancouver, British Columbia, I said hello to an elderly gentleman who was reading and enjoying the view and tranquility of the setting on the banks of one of the tributaries of the Fraser River. The retired gentleman saw my ‘University of Guyana’ golf shirt. He asked if I was from University of Guyana or worked there. I said I was a UG graduate and also worked there for a short time.
Further in conversation he revealed that he was well acquainted with Guyana. He said he had been involved in the wholesale purchase of rum from Guyana for his company. He mentioned the name of a well-known company and the production of rum there.
He was impressed with the professionalism and the facilities. He said he enjoyed both his tour of the factory and stay in Guyana. This was during the regime of the late Mr. L.F.S. Burnham. With such detailed information about the times, places and events, I took him seriously.
What he said next in our conversation was revealing. The price negotiated for a gallon of rum was fair, but the person doing the negotiating wanted half of the negotiated price to be deposited into an overseas account. This half-price would be publicly stated as the full price paid. For example, if he paid two British pounds (£2) per gallon of rum, one pound (£1) went as the purchasing price to Guyana and one pound (£1) went into the overseas account.
The gentleman did not mention who was/were the person or persons benefitting from the overseas account, or if the account was then used by the company as a deposit for foreign exchange. He indicated that this kind of scheme was almost standard operating procedure when dealing with corrupt governments and companies.
His wife arrived so the topic of the conversation changed and I was denied the opportunity to ask more questions.
We cannot go back and change what happened or try to hold person(s) responsible for defrauding shareholders and the people of Guyana, but we can learn from the past.
We have raised the issue of non-accountability of grant aid several times (since about 2002) in the media with regards to funds from a European Union (EU) grant to repair and refurbish the biology laboratories at UG. The contractual obligations were never fulfilled, for example, no quality control as evidenced by shoddy workmanship, inferior materials and no value for money.
So far despite the public evidence of corruption, no one was ever held accountable by the University Administration or the Government-controlled University Council. UG is a microcosm of the larger Guyanese society, the contractors, with tacit approval of public officials got away with defrauding our children, youth and all Guyanese.
In addition no further foreign aid was given to UG.
Now the levels of corruption (besides being more systemic, endemic and regarded as normal in the financial dealings of the current administration) have reached new heights of human shamefulness with further degradation and impoverishment of Guyanese.
We have been seeing more and more of the awarding of gifts of land and/or contracts to personal friends of the people in high places of this PPP Government. Curiously, these high profile individuals awarded these distasteful deals have overseas-based offices and some with even questionable professional credentials and expertise.
One therefore wonders if monies are not similarly delivered into overseas accounts for the generous contracts or gifts (‘sweetheart deals’) given to these friends of Guyana’s public officials. Being personal friends of Govt. officials it is easy to understand how some unscrupulous business people would be involved in such questionable practices, since both participants benefit financially.
Now we can understand why high profile and honest legitimate companies are not awarded contracts in Guyana since these companies would not risk involvement in shady deals; whereas, disreputable enterprises get these generous contracts without being held accountable. Why are so many contracts awarded to companies from countries which have corruption-tainted governments, and where no accountability and transparency are required by their laws?
In addition, money can also be invested in overseas businesses where Guyanese officials are the silent partners in various enterprises. During the Burnham PNC reign, we were told by the PPP that gold was leaving Guyana in the diplomatic pouches. We have to ask the PPP whether cash and/or gold are similarly leaving and entering the country. It would be a perfect money laundering scheme.
Guyanese should ask for Govt. officials to declare their overseas assets, or demand the adoption of global schemes like Publish What Your Pay (PYUP) or the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Currently, Guyanese officials are often in the USA (New York and Florida – enclaves of these friends of the PPP) and treasure their US visas.
We should wonder about the frequent foreign trips made by Govt. officials. Many PPP politicians and business friends likely have accounts and investments in North America in case their PPP Government collapses and insurrection and circumstances beyond their control make their profitable stays untenable.
We seem to be caught on a treadmill or recurrent nightmare where a few profit and the country and its people disintegrate into poverty, hopelessness and unemployment.
Despite the grandiose announcements of various projects, our people are fleeing to survive. How long do we bend ourselves as the pains of our oppressors are inflicted on us and our children? Should we not end these cycles of punishment by removing the whips from the oppressors’ hands?
Russian trained economist & Guyana PPP/C Executive President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo putin the con in Guyanese eCONomics
This is what happens when the corrupt PPP/C give a grocery store owner the contract to build a highway in the Guyana jungle.
Amaila Falls Hydro Project…Price tag now at staggering US$835M
The figure was announced by President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday during the commissioning of a US$18.4M Wartsila plant at Kingston.
According to Jagdeo, that cost of the 165-megawatts hydro power project includes both construction and the “costs of capital”.
Earlier this year, Sithe Global during a series of consultation meetings across the country, said that it has committed US$200 million to the project and that it could cost as much as US$700 million to complete it.
The President did not elaborate yesterday on how the project will now reach US$835M.
He lashed out at critics of the project whom he described as “gripers” and noted that they were going after every project of government and then would make an about turn and support it after it is completed.
Stressing that it was not “Fip Motilall” that was building the hydro project, Jagdeo said that Blackstone, the parent company of Sithe Global, is a respected business that has managed to gain financing from China Development Bank.
Motilall, whom government said initially proposed to government to construct the facility, was handed a US$15.4M project to build the access roads leading to the project area. His company, Synergy Holdings, is way behind on the contract and has since been granted an extension to the end of December to complete his works.
According to Jagdeo yesterday, the Chinese contractor, China Railway First Group, won the bid for the construction in an open process.
In July last year, the Guyana Government signed off on a loan deal to build the project and formalize the cooperation between the Guyana Power and Light Company, Sithe Global, China Development Bank and China Railway First Group Company Limited