No straight answer from the PPP on the missing public assets.
MAY 23, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
It is disgraceful that the Board of NICIL/PU (Privatisation unit) and their political sponsors still cannot account for the $50 billion of public assets. What is most unfortunate is that President Ramotar has chosen to swiftly boxing himself into a corner with statements such as “government has done nothing illegal at NICIL”.
Such statements can be seen as him taking full responsibility for this financial “Ponzi Scheme” that exist at NICIL/PU, thus freeing the real perpetrators (the NICIL Board) of their “decade long” mal-administration at that organization.
Why would President Ramotar want to tarnish his Office with questionable issues brought forward from the Jagdeo regime? Is there a debt still outstanding to Team Jagdeo by President Ramotar?
If there is anything to be done by the Office of the President, it is to distance itself from these “Madoff-type” financial activities at the NICIL/PU and launch a full Commission of Enquiry into its operations. Does the President have any idea what has really taken place in the NICIL/PU Boardroom? Is he not concerned about the financial opportunities lost because of immoral activities in the NICIL/PU Boardroom? It is clear as crystal, that if President Ramotar does not distance himself from this Ponzi 0scheme at NICIL/PU soon, it will adversely affect what is left of his credibility.
But what President Ramotar does is not our primary concern. Our primary concern was appropriately addressed by Cde Moses Nagamootoo at the AFC Port Morant meeting when he said, “we are not interested in taking power away from the PPP; that is the people’s job. Our core interest in to clean up all the skullduggery, corruption and financial shenanigans in the PPP Government so that more resources can be poured into the pockets of the workers, the poor and the powerless.”
The skullduggery at NICIL is a clear and present danger to the working class. It is because of NICIL’s poor accountability for some $50 billion, the CLICO financial bail-out and a host of other financial mischief by the Jagdeo regime that today the Ramotar administration is squeezing the working class on a living wage.
We would ask the reading public to indulge us to share another pertinent observation of this mal-administration at NICIL that has burdened the Guyanese taxpayer with some $1.2 billion.
If one were to peruse the 2002 NICIL accounts, one would find on the CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEET borrowing computed at $14,221 million. Included in that figure is a sum of $1.2 billion which represents the aggregate of two loans (from Argentina and the EU) that were used to purchase valuable equipment, a pharmaceutical plant and other assets for GPC (a former state owned company).
The two loans to purchase the pharmaceutical plant and equipment were transferred to NICIL when GPC was sold but the actual physical pharmaceutical plant and other valuable equipment were transferred to Queens Atlantic. The bad apples were left with the taxpayers and the good apples were transferred to New GPC Inc. /Queens Atlantic? Why?
Such a financial mismatch has resulted in the taxpayers being saddled with a debt of $1.2 billion but no asset to show for it. Those assets were quite clandestinely, comparable to a “thief in the night”, transferred to a private company controlled by a close associate of Bharat Jagdeo.
We can now understand why Mr. Brassington claimed that the final decision on all deals came from Jagdeo.
Where is the fairness, where is the accountability? This is nothing but financial piracy and “buccaneerism” of the highest order. Yet the members of the NICIL/PU Board have the audacity to lecture the Guyanese people about debate and proof?
So much for politics of principles from the PPP!
Dr Asquith Rose and Sasenarine Singh
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.
FEBRUARY 29, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
Dishonest, vulgar and deceitful are just some of the words members of the wider society are using to describe the government’s contention that its transactions have all been transparent and that there has been no secrecy.
On Saturday, last, the government through its News Agency, issued a statement seeking to lambaste Kaieteur News for its report that the government had signed a secret deal with Ansa McAl of Trinidad and Tobago for 110,000 hectares (approximately 425 square miles) of land in the Canje Basin.
Kaieteur News got wind of this deal through the Trinidad Guardian and insisted that the nation was unaware of the deal between Government and the Trinidad company.
Angry at the Kaieteur News report, the Government Information Agency (GINA) wrote, “The Government of Guyana (GoG) rejects the continued misrepresentation of the Kaieteur News of the various government projects and initiatives which seek to transform the country. The latest being the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Guyana and Ansa Mcal Group on the exploring the possibility of ethanol production in Guyana.(sic)”
“In July 2010, the GoG through public tendering awarded a contract to NUMARK Associates Inc. of the United States for the Service Consultancy to expand Bio Energy Opportunities in Guyana. As part of the Terms of Reference, NUMARK was tasked with compiling a list of potential Bio Energy Investors who may be interested in investing in Guyana.”
But when contacted, Rodrigo Chaparro, Vice President in charge of Sustainable Energy Strategies at NUMARK Associates Incorporated, said that it was tasked with advising on what policies and laws would be needed to create an environment that would attract investments in bio-energy.
The government said, “Based on the NUMARK’s report and the proposals received from investors, ANSA McAl was selected after their proposal was scrutinized by technical experts in the field of Bio Energy, which was subsequently approved and signed on September 30, 2011 and witnessed by representatives of the Government and ANSA McAL.
“To suggest this was a secret deal is not only misleading but a gross misrepresentation of the reality and part of the continued campaign to cast aspersions on the PPP/C Government.”
NUMARK stated that it was made aware through information posted on the web site of the Inter American Development Bank. The people of Guyana would not have been aware of the posting since the general population does not scour the web sites of international organizations.
To further highlight the secrecy of the deal, the government, despite sending its representatives to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with Ansa McAl, never announced that it had completed a Memorandum of Understanding. It also failed to make the signing public either through GINA, Office of the President or by way of press conferences.
The opposition parties were all unaware of this development as was the rest of the nation. The deal was indeed secret. Guyana was made aware through a publication in the Trinidad Guardian, four months after the government said that it signed the Memorandum of Understanding.
And the only response to the disclosure on the part of the government was a GINA statement criticizing the Kaieteur News disclosure of the deal.
The government said that “the impending project to modernize and expand the airport, the plan to construct the Marriott Hotel and the on-going One Laptop per Family project,” were also not secret deals.
“In all of these cases, the accusation of lack of transparency was refuted. All of these projects were developed through a public procurement process. The Government challenges any publication or political group to show where these projects were done in secret and not consistent with our various laws and regulations.”
The nation was made aware of the airport project by way of a publication in the Jamaica Observer long after the signing. After the Kaieteur News publication the government contacted the Jamaica-based headquarters of the Chinese company, China Harbour Engineering Company, contracted to expand the runway and modify the airport terminal building.
The spokesperson for China Harbour Engineering, one day after the Kaieteur News publication, duly referred all queries to the Guyana Government. Public Relations Officer of CHEC in Jamaica, Jennifer Harmon, said that she was asked by her company not to reveal any more information about the project and that in fact her decision to reveal the signing to the Jamaica Observer was ill-advised.
She said that the Guyana Government would release any information to the media.
The project was not open to bidding, since no such advertisement was placed on the government’s procurement website under the Ministry of Public Works through which the airport is administered.
Further, it was only in August 2011, Regional Director of CHEC, Zhongdong Tang, said that the company had a team in Guyana, and other countries, “looking for opportunities.” But GINA stated that the project was first announced “several months” ago.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo when confronted disclosed never before heard details of the project.
The Marriott Hotel deal was another that the nation learnt through a foreign media. So too was the talk with the Grenada-based Zublin. Head od the Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington was livid that Zublin released details of its talk with the government.
There were many other secret deals. One was for an Indian company for land in Guyana. Guyanese learnt of this through India Times. Among others were the Sanata Complex, MovieTowne and the land distribution process to housing developers.
Gov’t still seeking Marriott partners
Construction of the long-stalled US$51M Marriott Hotel in Kingston is scheduled to start next month but government is still seeking one or more participants who will collectively own 67% of the project’s equity amounting to US$8M.
In an ad in yesterday’s Sunday Chronicle, the government through its special purpose company for the project, Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), issued a final call for expressions of interest (EOI) to participate in the Marriott hotel project private equity. The ad said that while AHI is in receipt of a number of EOIs from private investors to participate in the equity, the company is seeking to finalize the selection of one or more participants who will collectively own 67% of AHI’s equity with a total subscription value of US$8M. Collectively, the total common equity of AHI will total US$12M and the government vial NICIL, will be a minority partner owning 33% of AHI’s equity amounting to US$4M.