Oct 03, 2015 News
…no record of reason or collateral for loan found- Sharma
The audit into the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has revealed that Guyana Rice Producers Association (GRPA) General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj is still to repay a $100M loan that he acquired from the GRDB in 2014.
According to reports, Seeraj, a serving People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament, signed for the ‘loan’ in July, 2014, with the understanding that it would have been repaid in October 2014. Exactly one year later, that money is yet to be repaid.
Reports went on to indicate that the loan was approved by former GRDB General Manager, Jagnarine Singh. At the time Seeraj was serving as Vice President of the GRDB, a position he relinquished in July of 2015. Also signing on to the agreement was then Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.
Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma yesterday confirmed that the transaction had indeed raised eyebrows, as the only collateral for the loan was a promissory note. He told Kaieteur News that there was no formal structure surrounding the transaction. He also stated that Seeraj has been formally requested to provide an explanation for the transaction.
In an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday Seeraj confirmed that the transaction had indeed occurred, but stated that it came about through a collective decision between himself, Ramsammy and then GRDB General Manager Jagnarine Singh.
The decision, according to the MP, was made in order to alleviate the financial situation of several farmers who supplied paddy to the Ruimzeight Rice Processors Inc but would have to wait for extended periods to be paid. According to Seeraj, the Quality Rice Co-op was formed in mid-2013 by a group of farmers to sell their paddy.
Seeraj stated that the farmers came to the RPA and after consultations with the Ministry of Agriculture and the GRDB, it was decided to assist each farmer that was owed money with ‘part-payments’ (payments on a percentage basis), with a focus on the smaller farmers.
The RPA, Seeraj stated, was thus used as an intermediary and the money was supposed to be repaid when the rice was shipped.
He related that as the relationship between the miller and the farmers deteriorated, their situation was further compounded when GRDB’s quality control section conducted tests last year and found that the rice being stored was of poor quality.
Co-Chairman of the RPA Jinnah Rahaman has however denounced the entire transaction, noting that the GRDB was not a lending agency.
Sharma, who bears oversight for the ongoing forensic audits, also told this newspaper that at the time the auditors uncovered the loan, it was found to be suspicious since no record could be found of what the loan was for, and what collateral was given.
Since coming to office, forensic audits have been launched into several other statutory agencies, including the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd. (NICIL) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Jagnarine Singh, General Manager of GRDB proceeded on leave in July; around the same time that Seeraj also relinquished his position as Vice President within the GRDB.
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