The PPP government and its AG exude unbridled ignorance and arrogance
After reading KN’s news articles, “AG challenges Opposition to move to courts on NICIL,” and “Anil Nandlall defends Brassington brothers,” (May 21), I am convinced that the PPP government and its Attorney-General make for a perfect fit, as they exude unbridled ignorance and arrogance, thinking it will somehow pass for governance substance.
Take the Brassington brothers’ issue for starters. Without rehashing all the details surrounding the transaction that allowed for NICIL’s Executive Director, Mr. Winston Brasington, to act on his brother’s behalf to buy 2.25 million shares valued at GY$225M from a company that NICIL had acquired, this has conflict of interest written all over it.
What’s rather telling, though, is that at no time at all did the brother ever leave the United States to sign off on the purchase. How on earth can Mr. Jonathan Brassington decide to invest over US$1M in Guyana and not be present at the time of signing off on the investment? In fact, where did he find over US$1M from to invest in Guyana? Did he have that kind of money to invest or did he borrow it from a bank in America or a bank in Guyana? I hope the Feds don’t go ringing his doorbell wherever he lives in America, because NICIL is going to blow like a volcano and spill ashes on some people.
Mr. Winston Brassington, meanwhile, emerged as both the seller of the shares and the power of attorney for his brother who bought the shares, yet Attorney-General Mr. Nandlall sees no conflict of interest here! This combination of ignorance and arrogance has long come to pass for acceptable governance substance in the PPP government, but neither Messrs. Nandlall nor Brassington is the final arbiter of what constitutes a conflict of interest.
I challenge anyone to present this matter as a case study at the University of the West Indies or the Hugh Wooding Law School to determine if it is a conflict of interest and I will wager US$1000 it will deemed as such. As a layman, I did a quick research on what constitutes a conflict of interest and this is one definition from Tufts University’s Finance Division.
It says, “A conflict of interest exists when an employee or a family member is in a position to benefit personally, directly or indirectly, from his or her relationship with a person or entity conducting business with the University. All employees have an obligation to avoid conflict, or the appearance of conflict, between their personal interests and the interests of the University and to avoid any situation that affects, or potentially could affect, his or her independent, unbiased judgment in the discharge of his or her duties to the University. An employee should recuse himself or herself from making any decision relating to University business, when the employee is aware of circumstances that might reasonably cause his or her impartiality to be questioned.”
Another definition from WiseGeek.com says a conflict of interest exists if, for example, “a city councilman awards a lucrative contract to a company owned by his brother. It would not be illegal to award such a contract…even if that company was owned by a relative, but the councilman himself could not be part of the decision-making process. There would be an obvious conflict of interest, because the councilman’s own family would benefit financially from his position of power.”
So, in both the Tuft University and WiseGeek references, the key to avoiding a conflict of interest is to recuse or remove one’s self from any proceeding where self or relative or even a close friend can benefit. For example, it was reported some time back that President Bharrat Jagdeo walked out of a room with government representatives negotiating business matters related to Queens Atlantic Investments Incorporated, because that company was owned by his friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop. Why did he walk out? To pretend as though he was giving the appearance he was avoiding a conflict of interest. At least Mr. Jagdeo played the game right, even if his intentions were already a foregone conclusion here!
And this was what Mr. Brassington was supposed to do: recuse himself from selling the shares directly to his brother. Well, he did say he consulted with the Finance Minister and the then Attorney-General, but honestly, who in that entire cabal would tell him to recuse himself? Anyway, not only did he fail to recuse himself, he sank deeper into his own quagmire when he functioned as his brother’s power of attorney. You can pretty much say he sold himself the shares! He did all the paper work preparation and signed all the signatures!
Now we have AG Nandlall breaking his silence by saying there is no conflict of interest. But this should come as no surprise, given the Jagdeo era culture when right became wrong and wrong became right, Messrs. Nandlall and Brassington may honestly believe they are right, and may only realize their error when a judge tells them in a court of law.
In my next letter, I will address Mr. Nandlall’s amateurish defence of the NICIL debacle and asinine challenge to the parliamentary opposition to take NICIL to court. AG Nandlall has to love embarrassment to be this willing to hear NICIL’s questionable deals exposed in court like the troubling revelations in another well-publicized trial.