Privatisation transactions…“Any question asked in Parliament will be answered”- Finance Minister
“There were hundreds of questions asked formally by members of parliament, but by the end of ninth parliament there was no question asked by a member of parliament, opposition or otherwise that remain unanswered. That fact is verifiable with parliamentary record. At the parliamentary library a list of questions asked by opposition MP’s could be found and there was none unanswered.”
These assertions were made at a press conference yesterday hosted by Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh at the National Communications Network (NCN) studios. Head of the Privatisation Unit Winston Brassington was also present.
The conference was called to underscore that the details contained in the “Privatisation In Tables, Phase 11-1993-2011”, prepared by Brassington and released last Friday during President Ramotar’s first press conference of the year, are the complete transactions of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), and are deals that are transparent.
The government has been under pressure for a number of years now to release details of privatisation transactions, with the Opposition parties leveling accusations of secrecy and corruption involved in the deals.
The Finance Minister said that the tender reports contain details of every transaction and various analyses presenting not only the description of the transactions but “the values, and
methodology used, etc.”
“If somebody would peruse the wide range of documents placed in the public domain, one would see that on virtually every aspect of government operation, we have ensured there is ready public access to information.”
Dr. Singh said much of the information provided and transactions in the report would have been in an open and competitive public tendering process which was advertised in the national newspapers. This is supplemented with the openings of the tenders which are a public event and the eventual award would also be in the public domain
“We trust the information would be useful to persons following privatization matters and those interested in the general theme of openness and transparency. We welcome and encourage all open debate on any issues of public interest…as a government we have no issues on having open and frank discussions on national interest.”
With the placing of the information in the public domain, he said there should be more informed comments, rather than resorting to misrepresentation and sensationalising items that pass off as analysis and objective commentary.
“What we would like to see and encourage is fact based discussion, commentary and analysis in debate.”
“Let me say this first of all, every single privatization transaction can be laid bare and open for scrutiny, every single one without exception! And the document does that, and so there is no transaction that we cannot specifically say when it was advertised, how many attempts were made to advertise it, how many proposals were received, what the price paid was, absolutely no transaction at all would be exempt from that degree of scrutiny, irrespective of who was involved in the transaction,” the Finance Minister emphatically stated.
Adding that government’s position and every single transaction can be subject to scrutiny, Dr. Singh said there has never been a time in history where government’s operations have been open and transparent as today.
“What you have is the political opposition and its agents conjuring issues that sometimes they misrepresent and distort or selectively identify dimensions… really part of a political contest for scoring points. What we are hoping for as a government is that objective analysis will premise their arguments and discussions on the facts before them, and that is the contribution we hope the document will make.”
Underscoring that there is no rule exempting any Guyanese from being entitled to participate fully in the pursuing their economic aspirations, Dr. Singh said there are open and transparent processes which can be scrutinized, whether persons are relative or perceived as friends of the government.
“There is no room for ministerial discretion, it is documented and administered by technical agencies such as GOINVEST and Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and in some cases NICIL, where privatized transactions are involved.”
Head of the Privatisation Unit and NICIL boss Winston Brassington said whether the person is liked or disliked is not a criterion for persons obtaining anything through a transparent documented process.
The Finance Minister noted that the 2013 budget is being worked on and is an ongoing endeavour which takes technical work in its preparation.
He explained that the parliamentary opposition has been engaged in the process – they were invited to a meeting several weeks ago at which representation was made by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC.)
At this meeting, Dr. Singh said, initial comments were offered on issues that are on the shared agenda.
“We did invite them to make submissions of issues of interest and priorities. Submissions were received from the AFC and subsequently the APNU. The submissions are being looked at and carefully considered, many issues did not come as a huge surprise, many of the issues were publically debated. We hope to have a budget that will continue to serve the cause of the country.”