Feb 11, 2016 News
By Jarryl Bryan
Sparks flew last evening as Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, called on the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)
to account for the infamous $100M loan agreement granted to the Guyana Rice Producers Association (GRPA) and assented to by a trio of officials back in 2014.
Addressing the National Assembly amidst loud objections from the opposition benches, Holder stated that not only was the loan still to be accounted for, but also that the GRPA pocketed some $2.5M in subventions each month from the previous administration, possibly for decades.
“Mr. Speaker, $2.5M was made available to the RPA each month over a matter of decades,” Holder declared across the Assembly. “And the GRDB has no audited statements of anything.”
GRPA General Secretary and Opposition spokesperson on Agriculture, Dharamkumar Seeraj, did not take kindly to the Minister’s charge about the loan and he immediately rose on a point of order; standing order 41.6, to dispute the charge. And while the opposition benches were vociferous in demanding a withdrawal of what Holder said, the Government side did not budge.
“The Minister of Agriculture has alluded that $100M was given to Seeraj and not accounted for,” Seeraj said on the point of order. “The records in the Guyana Rice Development Board make it very clear that no $100M was ever given to Seeraj. That $100M was made available through the RPA to pay farmers and those records were submitted to the GRDB.”
Last year, an audit into the GRDB had unearthed documents attesting to GRPA General Secretary Dharamkumar Seeraj, receiving a $100M loan from the GRDB back in 2014.
According to the documents, Seeraj 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.
Documents also showed 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 2015. Also signing on to the agreement was then Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.
Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma, had denounced the transaction when it came to light late last year. He had noted that the transaction was done under the wraps and may never have been uncovered had it not been for the forensic audit.
Sharma, who bore oversight for the platitude of forensic audits launched last year, also told this newspaper that at the time the auditors uncovered the questionable loan, it was found to be suspicious since there could be found no reason for the loan, or collateral to support it.
Co-Chairman of the Rice Producers’ Association/Action Committee and now GRDB Board member, Jinnah Rahman, had also denounced the entire transaction, noting that the GRDB was not a lending agency.
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