– Official who authorized give away must face lawful consequences- Ram
By Abena Rockcliffe
Superstition dictates that one should not “give and take back”. But what if that which was given was not
yours to give away? Whatever would be the superstitious course of action in this regard does not apply to governance.
Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-Law, Christopher Ram, is recommending that the government moves swiftly to recover lands that were gifted under the previous administration.
Section 77 of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act speaks to the gifting of public property. That section makes it clear that “A Minister or an official shall not make a gift of a public property unless the making of the gift is expressly authorized by law.”
In 2014, the Alliance for Change (AFC) made public its discovery that National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) had gifted a plot of Turkeyen land to China Railway Engineering Group. China Railway was involved in the controversial award of the East Coast Demerara Road Expansion Project from Better Hope to Belfield.
It was also involved in the completion of the Amaila Falls access road after the previous contractor had failed to meet his obligations under his contract.
Yesterday, Ram told Kaieteur News that it is obvious that the decision to gift the property was ultra vires and has no effect in the law. He said that the property should be taken back and the person who made the decision to gift the land should be made to face the lawful consequences.
Ram added that the then Director of NICIL, Winston Brassington—who has since resigned—would not have had the power to make such a decision on his own. The lawyer said that it is imperative that Government retrieve what was not lawfully disposed off.
Contacted for a comment, chartered Accountant and former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, pointed Kaieteur News to his report which highlighted the giveaway to China Railway and related issues.
In the report, Goolsarran said that the land which was gifted to China Railway was initially GuySuCo’s. Kaieteur News had previously reported that GuySuCo was ordered to halt developmental negotiations because former President, Bharrat Jagdeo had “other plans” for the land.
The land was gifted to government and government subsequently gifted it to NICIL. NICIL then disposed of the land to three companies, National Hardware, Multi Cinema Guyana and China Railway.
National Hardware and Multi Cinema secured sweetheart deals. National Hardware got 104 acres at $4.9M per acre while, Multi Cinemas Guyana secured 10.002 acres at $16M per acre. Both companies got good deals as another company was made to pay $32M per acre. Nevertheless, China Railway got an acre for free.
Records referred to in Goolsarran’s report indicated that NICIL gifted the land to China Railway the very day that Government gifted the land to NICIL.
Goolsarran’s report says that Sub lot AA at Plantation Turkeyen was East Coast Demerara transferred as a gift via order No.16 2014 the same day that it was vested in NICIL via order No. 15/2014. Both orders were signed by the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh.
Therefore, if Government is to heed Ram’s call, Dr. Singh is the one that would have to face the consequences.
Ever since the defeat of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) government, former Minister Dr. Singh has been scarce.
“He has not taken up a seat on the opposition benches in the National Assembly neither is he serving as a GECOM Commissioner as some of his former colleagues have chosen to do. As a matter of fact, Dr. Singh’s comrades do not even mention him.”
Kaieteur News understands that the former Minister is out of the country. But this has not been confirmed. However, efforts to contact him proved futile.
When the gifting of land to China Railway was initially made Public, AFC leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, was adamant that the transaction was not above board.
He had called on the PPP/C government to be transparent about the “questionable transaction” and explain why the land was transferred to NICIL and why it was not sold to the engineering group.
Ramjattan’s party is now in Government, but nothing has been done to make right the transaction he labeled “questionable” and the government has not signaled any intention to address the issue.
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