Oct 11, 2015 News
There is no provision in the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) amendment Act of 1994 for the granting of loans under any circumstance, thus making any loan agreement null and void.
This is according to former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, who was commenting on a controversial loan transaction between GRDB and the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) that was recently uncovered.
He also made it clear that the Government’s priority is to recover the money or hold the principals in the transaction responsible.
Last week, forensic auditors had uncovered documentation showing that the GRDB had loaned the RPA some $100M last year.
Signing off on behalf of the RPA was the association’s General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj, at the time also Vice President of the GRDB. Former Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and former GRDB General Manager Jagnarine Singh also signed the agreement.
The loan agreement, which consisted of three paragraphs, was drawn up July 22, 2014. It made no mention of the reason for the loan, nor was there mention of any collateral. There was, however, a promissory note signed by Seeraj promising to repay the amount by October 31, 2014. The $100M is yet to be repaid.
It seems that this was not the only time the GRDB has loaned money to the RPA unknown to the public. Kaieteur News was able to view another agreement made by a farmer in 2014. In the agreement, the farmer can be seen acknowledging a sum of $22M advanced by the GRDB to the RPA for farmers and promising to repay same in four installments.
Commenting on the situation, Goolsarran noted that under the GRDB Act and financial provisions, there is no allowance for issuing loans. Therefore, he said, GRDB authorizing a loan was not lawful.
Both Seeraj and Ramsammy have defended their role in the $100M transaction. According to Seeraj, the money had been secured for part payments to rice farmers who had supplied paddy to Ruimzeight millers, but had to wait for extended periods for payment.
For his part, Ramsammy has been quoted in sections of the media claiming he would “do it again”, as the transaction reportedly provided relief to rice farmers.
However, Goolsarran made it clear that the agreement could not override the law, which does not allow that. He also stated that for the signatories on the agreement to have approved the loan was outside their authority.
He said that if the law does not mention that GRDB can grant the loan, it is thus a violation and the agreement is null and void.
The former Auditor General stated that the first step would be to recover the money. If it could not be recovered, he said, whoever signed the agreement can be held personally liable and action should be taken.
Goolsarran said that if it could be shown that the principals benefitted personally, it is a criminal offence.
In a recent interview, Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma decried the mounting evidence of financial transactions conducted under the previous administration in questionable circumstances.
“This is just what happened to the Co-op ($100M transaction). We don’t know that the GRDB gave anyone money,” Sharma said on the new revelation. “But this man (is) just giving his commitment, similar to how Seeraj gave a commitment, to pay back $5,731,920 each and every (rice) crop.”
“So apparently GRDB again gave the RPA this money to bail out this man” he stated. “These are anomalies and discrepancies that cropping up here and there, showing (how) these people are giving out money.”
Kaieteur News understands that GRDB accountants have supplied the junior Finance Minister with a list of farmers paid from the $100M sum, of which approximately $8M was deducted for ‘legal fees’. However he has placed little credibility in the list and is expected to go after the RPA for further information.
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