Report on privatisation deals designed to confuse
Report vaque, does not show how transactions were above board – Anand Goolsarran
With a flurry of tables after tables, the recent document released by President Donald Ramotar on privatisation deals by the PPP/C government lacks clarity and is designed to confuse the reader.
This is the view of former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran.
“While some information contained in the document is useful, the average reader is left more confused and is unable to appreciate what to make of it,” Goolsarran told Kaieteur News.
President Ramotar has been commended for taking the initiative to order the report, but what the Privatisation Unit has done is draw up a report that offers little clarity on major deals between 1993 and 2011.
In early January, Ramotar released the publication after years of pressure on the ruling PPP/C to come clean on privatisation deals.
Goolsarran says the document itself is not a report, but rather an extract from the Privatisation Unit’s database in the form of tables.
“What should have happened is for a comprehensive report to be prepared, with some of the information contained in the document presented in annexes or tables to the report. To lump all the information on privatisation in the form of tables is more confusing than helpful. It also clouds the more contentious privatisations that the government undertook.”
Goolsarran is suggesting that the Privatisation Unit go back to the drawing board and prepare a “proper and comprehensive” report on the status of the Government’s privatisation programme and have it tabled in the National Assembly for discussion, debate and adoption.
“The report should focus on the major entities that were privatised; the procedures that were followed to ensure transparency and to ensure that the State gets the best value for money, and the proper accountability for the proceeds,” Goolsarran emphasised.
He said all the proceeds, net of expenses, should have been paid over to the Consolidated Fund, as required by Article 216 of the Constitution.
Goolsarran said that while he appreciates that the Government is trying to be transparent about the privatisation deals it undertook since 1993, such an effort should have been ongoing over the years.
In this regard, he said the National Assembly should have been provided with periodic reports on the status of the privatisation programme, preferably every three years.
He pointed out that there is a Privatisation Policy Framework Paper that was prepared some time in 1993, following criticisms of the previous Administration’s privatisation efforts.
“I am not sure if this paper was tabled in the National Assembly and approved, but I would have liked something like that to happen. In addition, the proposed list of entities to be privatised should have been submitted to the National Assembly for its approval. All of this is in the nature of good governance practices,” Goolsarran stated.
He said that the Government is aware of the public’s concerns of some of the privatisation “deals” that it had entered into and that this is a glorious opportunity for it to demonstrate that these deals are above board.
At the centre of the problems are the operations of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and its sister company, Privatisation Unit (PU). Both are state-owned agencies tasked with the management and privatisation of government assets.
The manner in which NICIL had sold properties had seen Government again and again coming under fire.
The release of the reports would clearly be seen as substantial and strategic move by President Ramotar to clean the image of his administration, and separate it from that of the Bharrat Jagdeo-led administration which has been tinged with corruption accusations.
The documents list financial, commercial and manufacturing transactions, but state that “although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure accuracy, it is possible that errors or omissions may occur, given that the information presented has only recently been compiled, based on available historical information.”