Dishonest, vulgar and deceitful are just some of the words members of the wider society are using to describe the government’s contention that its transactions have all been transparent and that there has been no secrecy.
On Saturday, last, the government through its News Agency, issued a statement seeking to lambaste Kaieteur News for its report that the government had signed a secret deal with Ansa McAl of Trinidad and Tobago for 110,000 hectares (approximately 425 square miles) of land in the Canje Basin.
Kaieteur News got wind of this deal through the Trinidad Guardian and insisted that the nation was unaware of the deal between Government and the Trinidad company.
Angry at the Kaieteur News report, the Government Information Agency (GINA) wrote, “The Government of Guyana (GoG) rejects the continued misrepresentation of the Kaieteur News of the various government projects and initiatives which seek to transform the country. The latest being the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Guyana and Ansa Mcal Group on the exploring the possibility of ethanol production in Guyana.(sic)”
“In July 2010, the GoG through public tendering awarded a contract to NUMARK Associates Inc. of the United States for the Service Consultancy to expand Bio Energy Opportunities in Guyana. As part of the Terms of Reference, NUMARK was tasked with compiling a list of potential Bio Energy Investors who may be interested in investing in Guyana.”
But when contacted, Rodrigo Chaparro, Vice President in charge of Sustainable Energy Strategies at NUMARK Associates Incorporated, said that it was tasked with advising on what policies and laws would be needed to create an environment that would attract investments in bio-energy.
The government said, “Based on the NUMARK’s report and the proposals received from investors, ANSA McAl was selected after their proposal was scrutinized by technical experts in the field of Bio Energy, which was subsequently approved and signed on September 30, 2011 and witnessed by representatives of the Government and ANSA McAL.
“To suggest this was a secret deal is not only misleading but a gross misrepresentation of the reality and part of the continued campaign to cast aspersions on the PPP/C Government.”
NUMARK stated that it was made aware through information posted on the web site of the Inter American Development Bank. The people of Guyana would not have been aware of the posting since the general population does not scour the web sites of international organizations.
To further highlight the secrecy of the deal, the government, despite sending its representatives to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with Ansa McAl, never announced that it had completed a Memorandum of Understanding. It also failed to make the signing public either through GINA, Office of the President or by way of press conferences.
The opposition parties were all unaware of this development as was the rest of the nation. The deal was indeed secret. Guyana was made aware through a publication in the Trinidad Guardian, four months after the government said that it signed the Memorandum of Understanding.
And the only response to the disclosure on the part of the government was a GINA statement criticizing the Kaieteur News disclosure of the deal.
The government said that “the impending project to modernize and expand the airport, the plan to construct the Marriott Hotel and the on-going One Laptop per Family project,” were also not secret deals.
“In all of these cases, the accusation of lack of transparency was refuted. All of these projects were developed through a public procurement process. The Government challenges any publication or political group to show where these projects were done in secret and not consistent with our various laws and regulations.”
The nation was made aware of the airport project by way of a publication in the Jamaica Observer long after the signing. After the Kaieteur News publication the government contacted the Jamaica-based headquarters of the Chinese company, China Harbour Engineering Company, contracted to expand the runway and modify the airport terminal building.
The spokesperson for China Harbour Engineering, one day after the Kaieteur News publication, duly referred all queries to the Guyana Government. Public Relations Officer of CHEC in Jamaica, Jennifer Harmon, said that she was asked by her company not to reveal any more information about the project and that in fact her decision to reveal the signing to the Jamaica Observer was ill-advised.
She said that the Guyana Government would release any information to the media.
The project was not open to bidding, since no such advertisement was placed on the government’s procurement website under the Ministry of Public Works through which the airport is administered.
Further, it was only in August 2011, Regional Director of CHEC, Zhongdong Tang, said that the company had a team in Guyana, and other countries, “looking for opportunities.” But GINA stated that the project was first announced “several months” ago.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo when confronted disclosed never before heard details of the project.
The Marriott Hotel deal was another that the nation learnt through a foreign media. So too was the talk with the Grenada-based Zublin. Head od the Privatisation Unit, Winston Brassington was livid that Zublin released details of its talk with the government.
There were many other secret deals. One was for an Indian company for land in Guyana. Guyanese learnt of this through India Times. Among others were the Sanata Complex, MovieTowne and the land distribution process to housing developers.
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