The inner workings of NICIL continue to baffle us
The inner workings of the state-established so-called private company NICIL continues to baffle readers, as revealed in KN’s news article, “NICIL controls revenue of several major government entities,” (May 11).
NICIL was reportedly established under the Hoyte administration in July 1990 primarily to handle divestment of government entities. But did the constitutional article that established NICIL cater for this current arrangement of collecting revenues from functioning state entities? And even if these state entities were placed on the government’s short list for divestment, hence NICIL collecting their revenues pending divestment, was this collecting arrangement known to Parliament?
I still can’t imagine the state placing Guyana Chronicle or Guyana Power and Light Company on a divestment short list.
A visit to NICIL’s website reveals the names of its 14-member staff, its street address, phone numbers, financials for 2002, 2003 and 2004, and under ‘Projects’, it says ‘coming soon’. Under ‘Home’, it has three press releases. For a company said to be sitting on GY$50B, there is hardly anything substantive to learn.
But like many Guyanese who are now getting hip to the NICIL scandal, I had some idea what NICIL was all about, thanks in large part to Mr. Christopher Ram, who long ago began exposing the jaw-dropping shenanigans of the company on his website.
So we went from being shocked to learn NICIL has between GY$30B and GY$50B in accounts that should have been in one account, the Consolidated Fund (CF); to being told NICIL is a private company conducting public business and does not have to place revenues collected into the CF; to being told it has not filed annual accounts since 2003; to being told it is being run by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and NICIL Head, Mr. Winston Brassington; to being told neither man knows exactly how much money the company has.
And now we are learning it is not just handling revenues from divestments, but from state companies currently in operation? This is one bizarre business bazaar that demands an independent forensic audit and court litigation to make it function as a transparent and accountable state entity with a specific objective, instead of confusing roles. I am reminded of Ms. Janette Bulkan’s letter, “NICIL may have to be reformed legally,” (May 8), which makes the world of sense.
Someone writing under the pseudonym of ‘Peeping Tom’ wrote, “Despite this, there still remained calls for the proceeds held by NICIL to pass through the Consolidated Fund. Even before the debate on the 2012 Budget, there were such calls. However, no legal authority has yet been produced to justify these funds being paid into the Consolidated Fund.” (“Funds held by NICIL not required to be placed into Consolidated Fund. This is the AFC’s ploy to deflect from its Budget cuts,” KN, May 7).
Say what? The writer, like the rest of the PPP ruling political cartel, says there is no legal authority justifying NICIL deposits its revenues into the Consolidated Fund, because there is no specific law identifying NICIL, by name, to do so. But Article 216, which covers all state entities generating revenues, is the legal authority, because NICIL is a state-owned entity that generates revenue disposing of state assets while collecting from other state entities. I want to see the judge who is so dumb as to agree with the asininities of the PPP here!
The PPP regime waxes in self-praise over its restoration of democracy in 1992, but continues to fail to understand that democracy is not an act with casting of ballots, but a process that extends to include the management of the people’s business in a transparent, responsible and accountable manner. In any other law-abiding democracy, what NICIL has been doing would have been met with resignations or firings and serious criminal charges, resulting in huge fines and long prison sentences.
I mean, how can a sitting cabinet minister whose portfolio includes managing the public purse cause a major state entity to not file annual accounts for nine years or not know how many billions are sitting in a major state entity like NICIL? This alone is reason for his resignation, but the fact that President Donald Ramotar, who spoke tepidly about ending the scourge of corruption if he got elected, is yet to fire Mr. Singh and has merely asked Mr. Brassington to become a consultant with responsibility for NICIL, shows either he is a farce or that the magnitude of corruption is so great, it will take something akin to divine intervention to tackle and resolve.
But since wisdom is a divine gift, then wisdom is saying that the parliamentary opposition, backed by concerned civil society stakeholders, should demand the government move immediately to have NICIL place its revenues into the CF or be forced to do so via a court order. And judging from the PPP regime’s scorecard, it is on the losing side of court cases, so it needs to do right by the law and people of Guyana to avoid extending its record of defeats.