Dec 04, 2015 News
The question of conflict of interest situations in Government has been rearing its head in recent years.
The first major one that ignited debate before the end of the last presidential term of Bharrat Jagdeo, prior to 2009, was the leasing of the Sanata Complex, in Industrial Site, Ruimveldt, to his best friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop.
Jagdeo claimed that he recused himself from the meeting in which his Cabinet of Ministers made the decision to lease that complex under very lucrative terms to Ramroop.
It was later discovered that some of the incentives granted to Ramroop and his companies were wrong in law. This forced Jagdeo and his Government to make immediate legislative changes to accommodate the deal. The deal, to this day, has remained shrouded in secrecy.
Another case that sparked questions about conflict of interest was when Executive Director of the controversial state-owned National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, was accused of misusing the financial information that he was in possession of, when he purchased for his brother Jonathan, in 2009, a $225M stake in Hand in Hand Trust Corporation.
The NICIL official later claimed that he was holding the shares for his US-based brother, an investor.
Nothing much has come out of those cases.
Brassington is still around and Jagdeo’s party has lost its first elections in two decades, as a result of early polls back in May.
Under the new Government, another case has now emerged, regarding a senior official at the Guyana
Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
According to documents filed in the Deeds and Commercial Registry back in May, GGMC Chairman, Clinton Murphy Williams, was made Power of Attorney for eight blocks of mining lands in the Cuyuni, Region Seven area. The lands, according to the “Irrevocable Power of Attorney”, belonged to one Ivor B. English, of New Providence, East Bank Demerara.
Williams also lives at New Providence, East Bank Demerara where he is English’s neighbour. Williams approved the lands for English, then took control by way of the power of attorney.
English was the former head of the Government’s Transport and Harbours Department, and was appointed as Principal of the Critchlow Labour College in 2010.
English swore that he is the holder of eight blocks of mining lands in the Cuyuni, all granted last year. The mining blocks are MP 786/2014; MP 787/2014; MP 788/2014; MP 789/2014; MP790/2014; MP 791/2014; MP 792/2014 and MP 793/2014.
With each block equivalent to 1200 acres, it meant that English placed approximately 9,600 acres of mining lands in the control of the GGMC Chairman. The lands are all in an area called Tiger Creek.
Cuyuni is known for being gold-rich, with the lands there in high demand.
English, who is said to be a close friend of Williams, said in the Power of Attorney document that he, English, shall have the sole right to decide on mining operation, provided that it is economically viable.
He also said that all plant, machinery, dredge and equipment shall remain his property with all rights to remove them at anytime.
English authorized the GGMC Chairman, on his behalf, to “collect and ask, demand, sue for, levy, recover and receive of and from all and every person or persons whomsoever, all and every sum or sums of money principal and interest, costs, charges and expenses due owing and payable or belonging unto me upon or by virtue of any contract or memorandum of agreement relating to the said aforementioned Mining Blocks and Parcels”.
He also authorized and empowered Williams to do whatever a lawfully authorized and empowered agent or attorney would do.
The Power of Attorney by English to the GGMC Chairman would appear as a conflict of interest, as it was Williams in his official position along with his Board of Directors that approved the Mining Permit to English in the first place.
GGMC is currently under the microscope after a decision was taken this week to send home Commissioner Rickford Vieira, pending a review of his performance.
Vieira has reportedly been clashing with the board over a number of decisions.
Both GGMC and the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association held separate meetings yesterday on Vieira.
GGMC will continue today to determine whether Vieira’s contract should be terminated.
GGDMA, on the other hand, is against the decision.
The association has a representative on the GGMC’s board.
A number of reviews have been critical of GGMC’s performance as regulator of the mining and now the emerging oil industries.
Miners have been complaining of mismanagement, corruption and discrimination at GGMC.
This week, it was revealed that the GGMC Chairman, since his appointment last year, racked up almost $4M in food and drinks bills at three city restaurants.
Most of the money was spent last year at the Silhouette Restaurant (JR Enterprise) in Kitty; 704 Sports Bar on Lamaha Street and Brasil Churrascari and Pizzaria, Alexander Street, Lacytown.
The figures raised eyebrows. For example, in February last year, over $650,000 was spent on meals and beverages at the 704 Sports Bar. There was no explanation.
In May 2014, over $100,000 was spent in dinner alone.
Vieira, according to a source in the GGMC, had restricted the spending by Williams. This happened after the elections which led to a change in the administration.
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