It’s time for a criminal investigation into the NICIL controversy
Within the past week the controversy surrounding NICIL finances deepened with the key NICIL Board Members refusing to appoint an independent auditor to review the books. Their language and tone speak of a determined attempt to shroud NICIL’s financial activities in secrecy. Why this secrecy over the taxpayers’ money?
We were reliably informed that Guyoil transferred close to $3 billion to NICIL in the last financial year. So much for NICIL‘s claims that they have only $700 million in cash.
As the NICIL quagmire continues, our reading of this latest salvo is that the minority PPP regime is bracing for a legal challenge to block any attempts by the opposition to question the board of directors of NICIL.
To further complicate matters, the Attorney General’s attempt to defend the alleged conflict of interest and insider dealing on the Brassington-Hand-in-Hand Trust Company deal is highly unethical, inappropriate and untenable with respect to good governance.
It is clear that many people need to have a re-look at their roles vis-à-vis the preservation of the state. What is at stake here is how a lead government negotiator on all the privatization deals during the last decade, used his position of influence to dig one financial hole to fill another, leaving the taxpayers with a deep financial hole in their pocket.
Why was GNCB Trust sold if the taxpayers were going to be saddled with an exorbitant toll rate to cross the Berbice River Bridge to fund the bail out of this business after the failed Stanford-Hand-in-Hand deal? Who made the call and sanctioned the unethical decision for Mr. Winston Brassington to purchase $225 million shares for his brother, Mr. Jonathan Brassington from Hand in Hand Trust while he was the lead negotiator?
The fact that the individuals involved are trying to cover up the issue suggests that things have gone terribly wrong and if voluntary compliance is not enough to get the board of directors of NICIL to tell the truth about its finances, then Parliament and the opposition must act to ensure accountability of the taxpayers’ money.
We believe that a resolution to NICIL’s problems is to have the Public Accounts Committee call for an independent forensic audit of the financial activities of NICIL over the last decade and anyone found responsible for any form of proven accounting improprieties, malpractices, and corruption at NICIL should be prosecuted.
All Guyanese, especially the poor and the working class should ponder the consequences on the nation if those found legally responsible for squandering NICIL’s assets are not severely punished for their misdeeds.
During the orchestrated NCN TV debate, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh and the Director of NICIL, Mr. Winston Brassington did not tell the nation how much money NICIL has or produced a list of its investments.
Whatever one may think, there should be no disagreement that the country needs a resolution to NICIL’s financial accounts which have not been audited or updated since 2004, as well as revised arrangements for an effective anti-corruption mechanism as an integral part of our governance structure.
Apparently, the minority PPP administration sees nothing wrong with the way NICIL has been functioning and continues to function and is therefore incapable of recognizing corruption?
But the opposition cannot give up on its quest to hold the minority PPP regime accountable. This is what the electorate voted for in the last elections.
As we mentioned in previous letters on the issue, there can be no question that NICIL is a government entity with public assets, therefore the people has a right to know how their assets were spent.
The deliberate attempts by the government to circumvent the process will backfire because the electorate has empowered the parliamentary opposition to ensure accountability and transparency so that the PPP regime does not continue to squander the taxpayers’ money.
As serious as this may be, the PPP is not inclined to address this issue and prefer to deflect it by the trivial talk of snap elections and court action. How foolish can one be to challenge Parliament on the budget cuts when the Constitution mandated Parliament to make laws and govern its own affairs?
What is significant is that the parliamentary opposition has the authority of oversight of all public assets, including those at NICIL. The excesses of the PPP regime must be curbed, but the culture of corruption, nepotism, discrimination, and patronage is so ingrained within the party structure that change might not come easily.
The “untouchables” believed that they are destined to rule the people of Guyana indefinitely and with impunity. However, this will change.
We implore President Ramotar to use the goodwill of his office to cease spreading propaganda, and urge those responsible for NICIL’s debacle to tell the nation the truth. It is not enough for the PPP to profess its help for the poor and the working class, for if the party does nothing to ease their pain and hardships, there will be a much greater number to help in the near future.
We affirmed that the sacred duty of the government is to be the servants of the people and be accountable to them. Does the PPP regime believe in this concept?
Dr. Asquith Rose and Sasenarine Singh