Dec 16, 2015 News
-former Auditor General
Days after Chairman of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Clinton Williams, defended
his acquisition of several mining blocks in the Cuyuni, Region Seven, the issue is refusing to go away.
Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, in his weekly column, Accountability Watch in Stabroek News on Monday, questioned whether GGMC’s board was even made aware of the transaction.
As Chairman of the Board, there had been criticisms that Williams abused his authority to help his friend, Ivor English, acquire eight blocks of mining lands last year.
Days before early general elections in May of this year, Williams was granted control of those mining lands via an “Irrevocable Power of Attorney” (POA). Williams was appointed in January last year to that position.
He said that he did nothing wrong, and in any case, there is nothing in the laws that prevent him from owning mining lands. As a matter of fact, there have been cases in the past where directors of GGMC owned mining lands.
The Chairman also said that the processing of the applications was done by GGMC’s staffers, and approved by the Commissioner, before being sent to the Board of Directors for the final green light.
However, according to Goolsarran in his column, Williams, as Chairman of the Board, would have been party to the decision to grant the mining permits to English.
“A year after the Chairman took possession of the land via a POA. Was there any disclosure of this at the very next board meeting, and if so, what position did the board take?”
Goolsarran argued that even though the mining laws may not address certain issues, it cannot be taken for granted that it may be immoral.
“In addition, in as much as the law is silent in relation to board members acquiring mining permits, good governance would suggest that such a practice is unhealthy and can present a serious conflict of interest,” he wrote.
As regards the criteria for the appointment of board members, Goolsarran pointed out that the schedule
to the GGMC Act states that “The persons appointed by the Minister as members of the Commission shall be persons who, in his opinion, are qualified for appointment by reason of their experience of, and shown capacity in, matters relating to the functioning of the Commission or matters which will be advantageous to the Commission in the performance of its functions”.
It does not necessarily follow that members of the Board have to be the holders of mining permits.
“Indeed, prior to his becoming Chairman of the GGMC, Williams was not known to have had any experience or expertise in mining activities. In addition, contrary to GGMC’s assertion, there is no provision in the act that specifically allows for Board members “to be owners of mining lands or to have such interest”, and the absence of such a provision does not suggest that the law permits such a practice.”
Further, Goolsarran argued, the fact that the previous chairpersons might have held interest in mining properties is no justification for a continuation of this undesirable practice.
In addition to the lands, Williams has found himself in hot water after it became known that he racked up almost $4M in food and drinks tabs at three city restaurants.
The tab raised eyebrows.
Last week, analyst Ramon Gaskin, urged for Williams to be relieved of duties immediately by Government in light of the revelations.
“This is totally out of order. I was the Chairman of Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC) and Gaibank and I never had an expense account. It is improper to spend that kind of money.”
Gaskin said he has been following the issues closely and from his information, no approval came from the Board for the $4M spending by the Chairman on food and drinks.
“The information is there. The Commission paid for the food and drinks and all those who are responsible for those payments should be removed from there. The approvals for those mining lands are tantamount to misconduct…improper conduct.”
Gaskin also warned that it would be a shame and indeed unjustifiable, if the new administration seeks to reappoint Williams as Chairman when the life of the Board expires this month-end.
“It is a shameless statement that has been issued by the Board. The Chairman cannot continue to hold on to that position any longer. He must be removed…it is as simple as that.”
Gaskin’s statement would also come as the GGMC Board seeks to remove Commissioner Rickford Vieira from his post.
Vieira was sent on administrative leave last week, with GGMC Board asking Government to terminate his contract.
Last week, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) announced that it was boycotting all meetings that Williams would be chairing for GGMC.
In its statement over the weekend defending the cases, GGMC argued that the publications by Kaieteur News is evidence it is being used by others with hidden agendas and motives, and opens the entity to legal action for the defamation of character.
The regulatory body claimed that the current exposure in the media is as a result of changes being made to the organization from the findings of a review last year.
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