… $17M luxury boat purchase
What was supposed to be a transparent, standard purchase of a 30-ft ocean-worthy boat has ended up as a scam involving a small group of high level members of the Guyana Police Force.
This is according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, with reference to the purchase of a $17M luxury vessel for regular patrols and crime-fighting purposes.
In a belated statement on the status of the much-touted addition to the police maritime fleet, the Ministry confirmed that it had cause to take action against those responsible for the purchase.
While the Ministry did not identify the high-level members of the force who were responsible, reliable sources in the organization have indicated that the acquisition of the vessel centered on three persons, the Commissioner of Police at the time, the Force Finance Officer and the Officer-in-Charge of the crime lab.
The Ministry’s statement spoke of kickbacks received by the senior police officials and also informed that they were ordered to repay all illegally obtained proceeds from the purchase.
Controversy surrounded the vessel from the time it arrived here in September 2009. This newspaper has extensively reported on the various problems encountered since its acquisition, and has relentlessly sought answers as to the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the high-priced investment.
Several explanations were proffered, with both the then Commissioner of Police Henry Greene and Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee denying responsibility.
Kaieteur News learnt that in the first place the boat, which runs on gasoline, is more of a pleasure craft, and is no way suited for the type of operation for which it was intended.
According to a source, the first signs that the purchase was bad, occurred when the boat was out on trial up the Demerara River.
On its return trip to the maritime base, one of the engines developed mechanical problems, as did the second engine moments later.
“It is to be regretted that from the day the boat arrived in Guyana, the problems with it were never-ending and the continuous purchasing of spares and payments for maintenance was placing a heavy toll on the budget of the Guyana Police Force. The cost for maintenance and purchase of spare parts for the boat amounted to millions of dollars,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
According to the Ministry, the identification and procurement of the boat was left solely to the Guyana Police Force, since they insisted that they knew the type of boat they wanted.
Quotations were obtained from the following agencies: Car Mart – $20,286,000; Rama D.B.K. Ltd – $18,733,500 and Cartronics IV-$16,974,000.
On the basis of a recommendation from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, Cabinet issued its no-objection for the purchase of the boat from Cartronics IV.
The Police Force was responsible for the processing of payment to the supplier, which was done through Citizens Bank Guyana Inc. They were also responsible for the receipt, inspection and storage of the boat.
The small group of high-level officers was in contact with the head of Cartronics IV and conducted the financial transaction.
But according to the Ministry, based on sound information received, an investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the vessel.
“The scam was busted and the culprits at home and abroad were identified. The Government demanded repayment of all the money from the local culprits who had collected kickbacks. Some paid, while others paid for those who refused to return their share. The money recovered was paid into the Consolidated Fund. The overseas-based vendor was threatened with prosecution. He fixed the boat which sailed for a few weeks and then broke down never to sail again,” the Ministry indicated in its statement.
Reliable sources have informed this newspaper that a former senior official from the Force’s Finance Office had repaid $1M and was subsequently removed from his position.
In light of this, and after careful consideration, the Government has decided to place the boat up for auction.
A few weeks ago, this newspaper had enquired from Minister Rohee what the status of the multi-million dollar vessel was, especially since it was not seen in operation when an ocean-going freighter flipped at the mouth of the Demerara River, resulting in the demise of the vessel’s cook.
The Minister had informed that he was assured by the then Acting Commissioner of Police that the boat was in order and was moored at the police’s Maritime Department wharf at Ruimveldt.
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