Former Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, is defiant in the face of an audit which has sounded alarm bells over the purchase of the water cannon for the Guyana Police Force in 2010. He is adamant that consultations
were held, only that they were held with the late Henry Greene, the Commissioner of Police.
During a press conference at the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) headquarters yesterday, Rohee stated that the process used to procure the water cannon was a fit and proper one. He also noted that he had to contend with opposition from officers within the police force who felt excluded and from the then political opposition.
“The then opposition never appreciated the fact that a water cannon was needed,” Rohee said. “From day one, they rejected the whole idea of a water cannon being introduced in public order matters and they carried a campaign against the efficacy of a water cannon. (Now) they have taken it a step further. They have solicited an audit in respect to no other equipment but the water cannon.”
Rohee said that as regards the absence of consultations, the naysayers are “dead wrong.” The PPP General Secretary sought to emphasize that not everything that is discussed between a sitting Minister of Home Affairs or Public Security and the leader of the police force is made public.
“There are certain Officers in the Force,” Rohee continued, “who never wanted the water cannon, because (they) did not have a say in the matter. For me, the major voices on such matters are the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police.”
Stating that to his knowledge the matter was fully discussed and ventilated, Rohee was strong in his belief that as the then Minister he was in his rights to consult solely with the Commissioner and not go below him to discuss such matters.
“But as far as I am aware, the matter was fully discussed and ventilated and taken to the Cabinet,” Rohee said. “So it was a fit and proper purchase or procurement that was settled on the basis of discussions between myself and the then Commissioner of Police. If the other ranks were not brought into the discussion by the Commissioner, that is an internal matter.”
The General Secretary also responded to one of the audit’s most contentious findings. The Audit report had revealed that the equipment was bought for $20.8M, instead of the previously reported price of $37M, from Shiyan Yunlihong Industrial and Trade Co. Ltd, a Chinese company.
“Well I don’t have any idea about the difference in pricing because those pricing matters are usually a matter between the Permanent Secretary and the relevant officers at the Guyana Police Force,” Rohee said.
“I have little or no say on the matter of pricing, because once it is in the budget and the price is in the (estimates), then it is a matter for the police and the permanent secretary to settle.”
On that note, however, Rohee also took a swing at the Police Force. He alluded to millions of dollars of equipment he claimed the police force has in its possession but has not been making use of.
“I can tell you, because I have had access to the information,” he said. “There are other pieces of equipment costing millions, lying down at (Guyana Police) Force headquarters that have never even come out of the crate.”
He noted that he has had cause to raise this issue with the police. He stated that some have reached a stage where they can no longer be used, as they required special storage arrangements.
In 2010, Cabinet, under the PPP administration, approved the purchase of “One used Armored Riot Water Cannon Truck”, at the behest of then Minister Rohee.
Rohee had informed Cabinet that the equipment was needed by the Guyana Police Force to be used for crowd control during the 2011 General and Regional Elections.
But the cannon had been heavily criticized as a result of its ineffectiveness. Upon assuming office last year, the APNU+AFC Government engaged Nizam Ali and Company to carry out a Forensic Audit on the process of acquiring the water cannon.
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