A new Guyana government should also investigate the crimes committed against citizens by people like Kwame McKoy, Manniram son Navin Prashad, Donald son Alexei Ramotar etc
NOVEMBER 16, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
Dishonesty in government is the business of every citizen. So says Dalton Trumbo, an American novelist.
This quote aptly describes the action needed by all Guyanese in exposing this PPP/C Government and Donald Ramotar’s smoke and mirror operations on the Presidential Pensions Payment Continuously.
PPP Campaign Manager Mr. Robert Persaud, failed his Uncle in Law miserably with his unintellectual attempt to throw a red herring into the debate on the unrighteous Presidential pension package by bring Mrs. Janet Jagan pension into the picture.
So in his words Janet Jagan earned $729,529 per month, therefore why is Jagdeo demanding over $3 million? Why couldn’t he settle for $729,529? Only the following word comes to mind – covetous and greedy.
Under an AFC Government, greed will be dealt with condignly, and the Presidential Pensions Law will be revised to reduce the Presidential Pension to just above what a Permanent Secretary gets and not a cent more.
I close with excerpts from the lyrics from a song by Red Chilli Pepper “Greedy little people are always in a sea of distress”.
President Jagdeo your distress will start on December 1, when the AFC Government commences its forensic audit into how senior Government officials in the PPP amassed so much wealth in such a short time.
NOVEMBER 14, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
The defenders of the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009 including Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Mr. Robert Persaud and now Dr. Nanda Gopaul are having a hard time trying to convince the Guyanese taxpayer that President Bharrat Jagdeo was less than greedy in initiating and approving legislation providing for benefits that are patently overgenerous.
The best that Mr. Persaud could do was question the timing of the questions, seemingly unaware that as far back as May 2009 Prime Minister Sam Hinds was vainly defending the Act with misrepresentations.
Mr. Hinds incorrectly wrote that all Mr. Jagdeo and his spouse would have is a single vehicle owned and maintained by the State. In fact Mr. Jagdeo is entitled to an unspecified number of such vehicles with drivers.
In addition, Mr. Jagdeo is also entitled to duty free concessions for motor vehicles and every other item he chooses to import. Mr. Hinds would also wish us to believe that free medical expenses are limited to the former president and his spouse. In fact taxpayers would have to pay for the medical costs for him and the dependent members of his family, for the rest of his life. And if Mr. Jagdeo or any one of them elects for treatment abroad, no big deal – the Act places no restriction.
Dr. Luncheon and others have been saying that all the Act did was to put into law payments made to former presidents, completely forgetting that neither Burnham nor Jagan lived to become former presidents.
With a slight twist Dr. Gopaul then tries to confuse the issue by listing eight types of expenses that former presidents were entitled to but fails to state what they actually received which is the real concern over the Act. What Dr. Gopaul seems to miss is what the parliamentary opposition and civil society have been saying all along, i.e. that there are no caps to any of the facilities; no conditions for receipt of benefits and no consideration of cost.
A former president working abroad is still entitled to tax-free pensions and most if not all the benefits and facilities permitted under the Act. And even if resident, s/he is entitled to clerical and technical staff even for private consultancy work, and can run up the most outrageous utilities bill for electricity, telephone and water to be paid for by the state. As drafted, the legislation would seem to impose on the state all the costs where the former president decides to have two or more residences. And we know from the advertisements, our soon-to-be former President is actually constructing on the sprawling state-owned land he awarded himself two houses and a distinctly un-low carbon hot and cold swimming pool for which the monthly electricity bill will easily run to $600,000. We will pay for all of that.
Even while visiting friends, that individual likes to travel with an entourage often consisting of five vehicles and several staff providing security. If he is unwilling or unable to give up such show of power and influence, we the taxpayers will pay for them too, including overtime late into the night.
We may take some comfort in the two services that seem to be limited in number – the gardener, though even that could be circumvented by retaining a landscaping service, and an attendant, presumably to look after the person’s hair, nails and general appearance. And if the soon-to-be former president joins one of his buddies in business or enters in business in name, either on his own account or for their benefit, all the income will be tax-free. This abomination has no parallel or precedent anywhere in the world and is deserving of its own Champion of the World Award.
The menu of benefits and facilities hardly seems what the Constitution intended as payments to former presidents when it states that “A person who has held the office of President shall receive such pension or, upon the expiration of his term of office, such gratuity as may be prescribed by Parliament. Any such pension or gratuity shall be a charge on the Consolidated Fund.”
One is forced to wonder whether the attempts by Hinds, Luncheon and others to confuse the public about the contents and consequences of the Act really show their inability to defend its inherent obscenity. What one does not have to wonder about is the frightening disregard for rules and cost on the one hand, and the interest of self on the other, all symptomatic of how the PPP/C has been managing the financial resources of the country.
Varshnie Singh entitled to First Lady’s pension
NOVEMBER 13, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
Pull Quote… “If this is the disdain with which Jagdeo and Nanda Gopaul of the Office of the President would treat her, how would they treat the ordinary Guyanese woman?” Ramjattan
The woman who was presented to the nation and world leaders as Guyana’s First Lady for eight years is entitled to a pension as is the case with the widows– Doreen Chung, Joyce Hoyte and Janet Jagan.
AFC Presidential Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan
This is according to Alliance for Change Presidential Candidate, Khemraj Ramjattan, who said that according to Hindu rites Varshnie and President Bharrat Jagdeo were married and that the registration was merely a formality to conform with the local laws.
“If she was my sister I would have gone up to him and put a good cut ass on him,” Ramjattan said, adding that it is the thing for a Hindu brother to do.
Ramjattan added, “If this is the disdain with which Jagdeo and Nanda Gopaul of the Office of the President would treat Varshnie, how would they treat the ordinary Guyanese woman?”
Dr Nanda Gopaul, the Permanent Secretary, in the Office of the President on Friday evening had released the names of the First Ladies who had received pensions and how much.
According to Ramjattan, even if one were to look at the amended marriage laws then it would be clear that even in a common-law relationship where a couple lives together for a period of more than five years then the woman is entitled to some benefits.
He said that Varshnie Singh was recognized as the Guyana’s First Lady for several years and as such should be entitled to a First Lady’s pension.
Gopaul had released the salaries received by Former Presidents and First Ladies amidst swirling controversy over the pension package Mr Bharrat Jagdeo will receive when he demits office following the November 28 polls.
However, the list omitted Varshnie Singh, who served as First Lady while married to Jagdeo. Jagdeo became President in 1999; the couple separated in 2007. Ms Singh, who has since adopted her maiden name, said the marriage was not registered.
In addition, the list released by the Office of the President also omits Mrs Yvonne Hinds, the wife of Prime Minister Samuel Hinds who served as First Lady from March-December, 1997 when he served as President.
The list states that in December 3, 2004, Mrs. Joyce Hoyte (wife of former President Desmond Hoyte), received $87,143. Following the passage of the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act Mrs. Hoyte received $347,395 from 2006. In 2007, she received $378,660; in 2008, $489,468; and in November 2010, she got $543,543.
The Office of the President said Mrs. Janet Jagan received $125,867 per month in 2000. From October 1, 2006 she received $729,529 per month. In addition, the Office of the President said she received a salary of $137, 938 in March 2009 as legislator, and ex-president $876,692.
Former President Arthur Chung received, from October 1, 2006 $729,529 per month, with the last amount being paid in June 2008 to the tune of $1,085,427 per month.
His widow, Mrs Chung, received a widow’s pension of $542,714 up to August 2009, the Office of the President said.
The Office added that they were also entitled to motor vehicles and drivers, a gardener, payment of utility bills (electricity/telephone/water), payment for security at their residence or the provision of security personnel, payment of maids, payment for m
edical expenditures, payment of an Annual Vacation Allowance for Ex-President
President Bharrat Jagdeo and Varshnie on their wedding day July 26, 1998
and Spouse, and duty-free concession for motor vehicles.
AFC to implement enquiry into assets of Govt. officials -Nagamotoo
NOVEMBER 12, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
Levelling charges of corruption from top to bottom by Government officials, the Alliances For Change (AFC) did not mince words even as a PPP/C canter with loud music interrupted the meeting at the Parika Junction last evening.
In attendance were Presidential Candidate of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan, Moses Nagamotoo, AFC economist Sasenarine Singh and Rajendra Bissessar.
Moses Nagamotoo who lambasted President Bharrat Jagdeo said that many persons are not pleased with the actions of the government, especially after he Nagamootoo spent 50 years of his life trying to bring about changes while he was serving in the PPP/C.
“After Cheddi Jagan died they made it difficult for me to be a part of the party because every day we have seen the corruption growing more and more, and no one can criticize Jagdeo and the Government apart from him buying over the leadership of the party.
“People started to become silent because he controlled the contracts, he controlled the resources of the state and then he tried to control the party of Cheddi Jagan so that he can rule the PPP his way,” Nagamotoo declared.
Presidential Candidate of the AFC Khemraj Ramjattan interacting with persons at the meeting.
Taking a swipe at Housing Minister Irfaan Alli, Moses Nagamootoo said that he just made it into the Government after working in the State Planning Secretariat. “Ask him how many houses he has, how many properties this little boy has in Leonora, in Georgetown and in other places.”
Moses promised that when an AFC Government is elected there will be a commission to enquire into the assets of top officials in the Government who cannot show how their wealth was gained.
Presidential Candidate of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan, said that it is shocking that the behaviour of the outgoing president is so ludicrous.
He said that instead of the president focusing on issues Jagdeo is rather focusing on personalities, while after his exit from office he would be entitled to a $100,000 a day which would give him $3M a month. “You however, will receive a pension until you are 65 before you can get $250 a day.”
AFC economist Sasenarine Singh said that the wealth of the nation is approximately US$2B a year of which 90 per cent circulates in 10 per cent of the population’s hands.
He said that only if one is a part of the Government cabal only then you can receive crumbs from their table.
Underscoring, that there are many issues facing farmers, Singh said that the people have to make a cultured decision since many underhand deals are affecting the livelihood of the hardworking people in the country.
By ARIF BULKAN | 0 COMMENTS | IN THE DIASPORA | MONDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2011
Arif Bulkan teaches human rights law at the University of the West Indies in Barbados.
What would an honest evaluation of the Jagdeo Presidency reveal? Its genesis lay in naked constitutional manipulation, for in the 1997 general elections Bharrat Jagdeo had not been elected as President or Prime Minister by the People. Thus when Janet Jagan disclosed in August 1999 that she could no longer continue as President due to her declining health, Jagdeo’s succession was contrived through a circuitous route. First, Sam Hinds was required to resign so that Jagdeo could be sworn in as Prime Minister on August 9th, and this was followed by Janet Jagan’s resignation and Jagdeo’s assumption of the Presidency on August 11th. This process gave fair warning to the Guyanese people of how slender national ‘democracy’ was, for in a country where one party has a stranglehold on power, the only hope of forestalling imperial rule is if that party’s internal structure has processes and mechanisms by which its leader(s) can be held accountable. But Jagdeo was a handpicked successor, revealing the imperial nature of the power possessed by the head of the ruling party and that party’s fundamentally undemocratic nature. More troubling was that his installation in office required the circumvention of the supreme law of the land, but this did not seem to give the PPP as an institution any cause for discomfort. All this was an ominous portent of things to come. Janet Jagan may have thought that she was installing a puppet – but just as she was able to exercise maximum power as President, so too was her creation eventually able to function, uncontainable even by her (there’s a lesson there for Jagdeo and Ramotar, but that’s another story).
Back in 1999, a battered electorate gave little thought to PPP intrigue, despite the very public manner in which events unfolded. Jagdeo’s youth represented a refreshing antidote to the old guard and party loyalists, and his selection on the eve of the millennium could have been taken to herald both literal and symbolic rebirth. And to be fair, in the intervening twelve years there have been instances where Jagdeo has demonstrated solid leadership – notably in the principled stand he took with regard to the Economic Partnership Agreement being forced down the region’s throats by the European Union, despite the considerable opposition of his counterparts in CARICOM. Sadly, however, for the most part Jagdeo’s rule has been a bitter disappointment, where any initial promise was quickly extinguished by an autocratic, intolerant, vindictive, incompetent and verbally abusive style of governance. I could go on, for there are many negative adjectives which can be used to describe Jagdeo’s presidency, but when I saw the photograph taken of the President at the India Day parade in New York City, I thought that it said it all.
This week’s column will focus on two prominent features of his presidency symbolised in the photograph: 1) the way in which he has consistently indulged himself, the public purse be damned, and 2) the way in which he has materially indulged his cronies, again without regard for the public purse.
Jagdeo’s personal financial dealings need little recounting. As I pointed out in an earlier column, the sale of his first state-subsidized house and land in Goedverwagting at a price that far exceeds market value and to Guyana’s consul in Trinidad and Tobago is one that reeks of impropriety and would have been immediately investigated in any functioning democracy.
Immediately after this sale Jagdeo acquired more state-subsidized lands, but at a price far below market value. A number of irregularities surrounded this second transaction: the President obtained more than 4 times the amount of land a re-migrant can purchase; he paid barely one-sixth of what a re-migrant would have had to pay; and the allocation to him was made by Cabinet in violation of standard policies that state-subsidized land is only to be distributed to persons who do not own or have not owned property in the previous 5 years. Most obscene of all, as pointed out by Bro. Eusi Kwayana, the lands awarded to the President form part of a post-emancipation village. That many of the descendants of those first villages still live in squatting areas while the choicest lands built through the sweat of working people are reserved for Jagdeo and his cabal of supporters, is a monstrous injustice.
It then emerged that 29 tons of building material was shipped to Jagdeo from alleged criminal Ed Ahmad. Mr. Ahmad has other unsavoury antecedents – in the US he “loaned” money to Congressman Meeks, which was only re-paid when the authorities commenced an investigation. Sometime before (or after) Ahmad sent the container of building material to the President, he secured lands from Guysuco on the West Bank. We will have to do the math, because unlike in the US, there will be no official investigation into these events.
Then it has been reported that on each trip abroad, Jagdeo receives a US$5,000 (G$1 million) out-of-pocket allowance over and above the funding for the trip, for which he does not have to account. Compare that to the minimum wage of G$35,000 per month and Guyana today is like France under the Bourbons (of the ‘let them eat cake’ period).
Then there is the presidential pension, which will afford Jagdeo a life of post-retirement luxury. How the $3 million monthly figure has been computed is a mystery to me. Under the law passed by Jagdeo’s minions in parliament many of the benefits are uncapped, so the cost to the taxpayer could conceivably exceed $3m given the standards presently exhibited.
A key feature of the Jagdeo Presidency is the majestic enrichment of a select cabal of his supporters. The examples are endless.
1.The recently released report of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee reveals major irregularities in public spending for the 2 years it reviewed (2007-8), including overpayments to contractors and payment to contractors for work that was not completed. It is public knowledge that the vast majority of national infrastructural works are awarded to a select few contractors. The latest in a long string of examples is the award to a favoured contractor, BK International, of a $138 million contract for upgrading the Supenaam stelling. This comes less than 2 years after BK drew down more than $400 million for work on the same stelling that was completely botched, leaving it unusable for over 2 years. In other words, the same company is being given more money for a job that it already bungled, when in the normal course of business it should be sued and ordered to repay or finish the job properly.
2. Or consider the case of the single-sourcing of drugs from New GPC by the Ministry of Health. This has been going on since 1997, and after 2003 in direct violation of the Public Procurement Act. Since 2003 the practice has been facilitated, arguably unlawfully, by Cabinet decision. Between 2003 and 2008, it resulted in over G$3 BILLION for New GPC. Single-sourcing of any good means that the purchase price may not be competitive, and as if that were not irregular enough, it was revealed in Parliament that the drugs were paid for up front – in other words, Guyanese taxpayers funded the company’s operations, something absolutely unheard of in business. To add insult to injury, New GPC’s parent company then turned around and loaned money for the construction of the Berbice River bridge at between 9-11% interest, which interest will not be taxed! As is well known, New GPC is a subsidiary of the Queens Atlantic (QA II) group of companies owned by the Ramroop family, one member of which is a close friend of none other than Jagdeo himself.
3. The same QA II was illegally granted certain tax concessions by the Jagdeo administration. When Mr. Yesu Persaud spoke of these concessions at the launching of Guyana Times on June 5th 2008, he was publicly attacked by the President. Later, when accountant & attorney Chris Ram exposed the administration’s lies on this point, the Jagdeo government hurriedly passed a law to retroactively legitimize their earlier, unlawful act.
4. In 2009 Fidelity Investment evaded taxes and customs duties in excess of $321 million, but even though customs officers raided their premises and found over 73,000 cases of Polar beer for which the company could provide no import documents, the case against the company was discontinued by the State with no explanation given to the special prosecutor or to the public at large.
5. Earlier this year the one laptop per family project was announced, but in the public domain there was much inconsistency regarding its cost as announced by the government. Worse, a price to be paid for each laptop was announced, even though the tender process had not even been commenced.
6. The Amaila Falls hydro-electricity project has been dogged by similar concerns over the cost of the project and the lack of transparency surrounding the bidding process. All that is known to the public at this stage is that there is a US$200 million gap in the actual cost of construction and the original estimate given (the latter has since increased by another US$135 million, making that gap now US$335 million). Where or to whom is that extra money going?
7. Earlier this year the government leased almost 2 million acres of land to a businessman from India for 30 years at G$394 (yes, a little less than two US dollars per acre). Again, this lease was not the subject of a transparent or competitive bidding process, and Guyanese do not know what other benefits attend the deal. Does it attract special tax concessions? How come the company is reportedly being allowed to export species for which there are existing bans in the law?
One can continue to list the secretive and scandalous deals by this government, but the underlying features are similar. Principally, key oversight institutions have been either run into the ground by the government or are simply not functioning. Anand Goolsarran, who as Auditor General brought many irregularities to light, was run out of office in 2004 when he attempted to investigate a dolphin scandal involving the President’s adviser. Since then, the vacancy left by Dr. Goolsarran’s departure has not been permanently filled, so even were the incumbent minded to act courageously the precariousness of the position is an obvious impediment. The government refuses to appoint a Public Procurement Commission, which means that there is no transparency in and scrutiny of the procurement of goods and services and the execution of public works. This state of affairs facilitates overpayment and shoddy performance. Most of the beneficiaries of this largesse tend to be friends and associates of the President, hence the charge of cronyism. Where foreigners are involved, the deals are invariably negotiated in secret. The end result is the stifling of competition, a higher cost of living, and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a favoured few.
Add this up and the picture is clear. Notwithstanding the low salaries, unlivable pensions and general impoverishment of most Guyanese, President Jagdeo shamelessly grabs whatever he can for himself (and his chosen friends) – lands, container of goods, lavish US dollar allowances, overseas trips, maids, gardeners and pension for life – wherever he is, and irrespective of who is looking on. In next week’s column I will conclude by examining the intolerance and decay that, taken together with the cronyism, characterise Jagdeo’s 12 year period of rule.
OCTOBER 31, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER EDITORIAL
The Office of the President (OP) has responded to the claim made by Khemraj Ramjattan of the Alliance for Change (AFC) that President Jagdeo will be receiving a pension of $3 million per month.
The release from OP dubbed Mr Ramjattan “a compulsive liar” and claimed in turn that Mr Jagdeo will actually be receiving, “about one-third of that amount” – meaning about $1 million per month.
As best as we can verify, the statement from OP is technically correct – but only when the word “pension” is interpreted most narrowly and confine it to the monetary portion of the pension.
But this narrow definition is more notable for what it omits as what it states. There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. First, we have to point out that the monetary payment is tax free: an ordinary citizen that earns that princely sum would have to part with $333,000 as taxes.
Then we have to include the benefits as enumerated by the “Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act No. 12”, which was passed in the first quarter of 2009 – under Jagdeo’s watch, we should note. These all obviously have a monetary value.
First, there is the “payment of water, electricity and telephone bills”. With the massive open air swimming pool that has to be cleaned and emptied rather frequently, the lawn that has to be watered and the other uses for water, we can conservatively estimate the water bill to be about $50,000 monthly.
Then there’s the electricity. Even when Amaila Falls come on stream, for a mansion the size of the Pradoville property, including the installed air conditioning and floodlights, we’re talking about another $300,000 monthly. Telephone bills for a man with Jagdeo’s international connections could easily run in another $100,000.
Next we move on to, “Services of personal and household staff including but not limited to an attendant and gardener”. Another $250,000 monthly? Remember he’ll need drivers for his vehicles – see below. What about “Services of an unspecified number of clerical and technical staff”? $400,000?
“Free medical treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by the (Presidents) for their own treatment or treatment of dependents” can easily run us another $200,000 monthly, since we know that individuals like the President will not be going to GHPC.
We can chalk up another $200,000 for “Full-time personal security and services of the Presidential Guard Service at their place of residence”. But it is the “The provision of a (unspecified) number of motor vehicles owned and maintained by the State” that takes the cake.
Jagdeo is used to moving around in Land Cruisers, Mercedes and BMW’s – and we note the plural nature of the “motor vehicles” to be made available. $500,000 monthly?
We’ve reached the additional $2 million that tops up the acknowledged $1 million cash payment to reach the claimed $3 million. And we have not even mentioned the “Annual vacation allowance equivalent to the cost of two first class return airfares”.
But with all the ostentatious demands on the public purse to the conservative estimate of $3 million per month, none displayed the mentality of Jagdeo more than this benefit he insisted on inserting into the legislation: “Toll free road transportation in Guyana”.
After benefits amounting to $3 million monthly, he still cannot pay road tolls? Berbician cannot walk across the Berbice Bridge; they have been denied waiving of the toll for schoolchildren, but an individual with $3 million in his pockets every month, gets a free pass?
In this editorial we have not touched upon the crucial point that was sought to be established in the debate surrounding the President’s pension: the comparison of the Presidents benefits with those of an ordinary pensioner.
The argument made is that Guyana, being a poor country, cannot afford more than $7500 monthly for the latter. So how do we justify $3 million monthly for the President? Surely we want our retired Presidents to live in dignity but is there no correlation with our means?