Jan 23, 2014 News
Within the next two or three sittings of the National Assembly, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) will be moving to have Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, sanctioned for his failure to adhere to the resolutions of a motion passed by the House.
This was confirmed by Finance Spokesperson for the coalition, Carl Greenidge, who told this publication that the process has already started.
The motion that the House passed, instructed the Finance Minister to take a number of measures regarding the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and its operations.
Reminding that the Government has already made public its position that it is not obligated to adhere to the resolutions, Greenidge said that it was “utter nonsense.”
According to the parliamentary standing orders, members of the House are bound by the rules, and as such, Greenidge insists that the Finance Minister must reign in the holdings company headed by Winston Brassington.
Greenidge said that APNU will be employing a number of strategies this year to deal with NICIL and the first wave will come when the House gears to make a prima facie case for his committal to the Committee of Privileges of the Parliament.
The operations of NICIL have been the source of severe criticism for a number of years to the point that it has been described as a “rogue company.”
NICIL owns and control a number of state entities as well handles government privatizations. In recent years it has been involved in a number of controversial large scale investments such as the Berbice Bridge, the Marriott Hotel, the Amaila Falls Access Road and was also pursuing the construction of the Amaila Falls Hydro Electric Plant. It is now pursuing the construction of a new river crossing over the Demerara River.
At the last sitting of the National Assembly, Dr Singh tabled belatedly, NICIL’s annual report for 2012.
That report documented that of the $7B in revenue that it earned, only $1B was handed over to the Guyana Government.
According to the 2012 report, NICIL’s assets in terms of property and equipment were just over $1.4B while it holds another $5B in investments.
Having never collected any dividends from the Berbice Bridge Company Inc, the report disclosed that in 2012 NICIL sold all of its shares to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for $950M.
By the end of 2012, the company had also invested almost $3B in Atlantic Hotel Inc, which is building the Marriott Hotel in Kingston.
The report also documents that during the year 2012, NICIL also sold all of its shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company for US$30M.
As at the end of 2012, NICIL received US$25M for the sale with the remaining US$5M payable in two years.
The report stated that other than Brassington, who has a contract for service with NICIL, there were no other contracts between the company and any of its Directors.
The Directors for NICIL, at the end of 2012 were Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, Sonya Roopnauth, a Director in the Finance Ministry’s Budget Office, Nigel Dharamlall who is also the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and the Executive Director, Winston Brassington.
In November Greenidge had lashed out at the Finance Minister for failing to comply with the resolution which came out of the motion on NICIL that the opposition had voted for.
That motion in the House arose from general concerns about the unaccountability on the part of NICIL for a variety of actions; how it had taken decisions with Government resources in a number of projects and also because NICIL was originally established as a holding company which was intended to oversee the allocation of assets that came out of the privatization.
It was also responsible for advising on how properties are disposed of but the government instead, “uses NICIL to get these lands and distribute them to its friends without having to go through any proper procedure for vetting or for setting prices or anything like that,” according to Greenidge.
“State lands are not supposed to be handed out at personal whims and fancies, which is what the government has been using the company to do…This is the heart of the problem.” And so a motion was passed in 2012 calling on the Government to account for the lands that it has been entrusted with and to explain the basis upon which these lands have been handed out. It was also asked to ensure that the agency brings its accounts up to date and that they hand over the monies and excess funds to the treasury.
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