A President’s job is never easy and President Ramotar should never have expected his tenure to be without its difficulties. He should expect a deluge of problems. He faces an opposition notorious for making a drizzle seem like a tornado and in Guyana, controversies rain down like monsoons.
President Ramotar has had his probationary period, one that is granted by the public to all presidents. This period is one of great tolerance, in which the public gives the president a chance to get familiar with the seat of executive authority.
That probationary period is over. The President has to understand now that he is the holder of executive authority. This authority resides exclusively with him. His ministers are, constitutionally, merely his assistants. The buck stops at his desk. He is the one who is going to be held accountable for the performance of his government, including the way in which controversies are dealt with.
The President has inherited many controversies, but the fact that they were not of his making does not absolve him of responsibility of resolving them.
One of these controversies concerns the operations of NICIL. There are now, in the public domain, questions about a possible conflict of interest involving the executive director of NICIL. The president has to address this issue in a way that brings quick closure to the matter.
There is no need for a commission of inquiry to investigate whether there was any conflict of interest involved in the various scenarios involving the director and his dealings with shares in Hand in Hand Trust and in NICIL’s role in a road contract in which the said Hand in Hand Trust issued a performance bond.
Conflicts of interest are not criminal offences but are improper. The President needs to assure the nation that in keeping with his stated commitment to transparency that he will deal decisively with this issue and thereby end the raging controversy.
He should consider appointing a single individual, with no ties to Guyana, to investigate the issue of possible conflict of interest involving the said director and his dealings with shares in Hand in Hand Trust held by his brother. He should ask the Commonwealth to send someone to undertake the investigation into any possible conflicts of interest. This investigation should only take a few days.
The second controversy is not going to be mended that easily. It concerns the company that has been awarded a contract to rebuild the country’s main airport to bring it up to a category one facility.
Kaieteur News is reporting that the parent company of the company awarded the contract to do the work in a secretive signing just before the elections last year was debarred by the World Bank from undertaking any work.
The World Bank in fact had announced since January 2009 that following investigations by its integrity unit, it was debarring the parent company and all its subsidiaries for a specified period of time from undertaking work related to funds from the World Bank. In short, the company has been blacklisted for a number of years.
Did the previous government know this when they secretly signed a contract with a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company Limited? If they did not know, it was their duty to find out.
But then again the previous government had a strange manner of undertaking due diligence. When this newspaper questioned the previous administration about the due diligence that was done as regards the contract to build the Amalia Falls Road, the explanation was given that it was the IDB that did the due diligence.
So who did the due diligence on the company that is supposed to construct the airport and how come the blacklisting fell off the radar during that due diligence?
Glenn Lall warned the previous government about the road project. His words were prophetic and now the Donald Ramotar administration has to devote billion of dollars and a great deal of time to complete the road. Had they followed the advice of Lall, the government would not have been in this dilemma.
They now face another dilemma. They have to decide in the face of the reports that have surfaced within the World Bank concerning a contract in the Philippines, whether to go ahead with this airport contract.
They should abort this contract immediately. Apart from the fact that they are now dealing with a company on which greater due diligence is now needed, there is no need at all for Guyana to be contracting such a horrendous debt which cannot repay itself.
This contract must now be revisited, not just on the basis of its economic viability, but because of the serious concerns which have been raised about the integrity of the contractor.
The third controversy that should be settled immediately concerns the building of the Marriot-branded hotel. This newspaper reported that the land in question is being leased for $25,000 per month with an option to buy after two years.
If this is true it constitutes a repeat of the Sanata deal where there was a similar clause. The Donald Ramotar administration should not be proud of having on its record a repeat of that aspect of the Sanata deal.
Glenn Lall is now placing an offer on the table. He is saying that instead of $25,000 per month, he will pay $100,000 per month. And he wants an option to buy within two years.
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