Mar 13, 2016 News
Over a three-year period, starting in 2012, long-serving Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, managed to acquire over 45 concessions of mining lands.
However, the official yesterday said that nothing in the law bars him from conducting mining operations. The lands are in excess of 54,000 acres.
There have been concerns in recent years, especially by small miners, over the availability of mining lands.
The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), as regulator for mining, has been under constant fire for its handling of mining lands.
Isaacs’ name was among a number of others on a list released to Kaieteur News, with question marks raised.
With his position as Clerk of the National Assembly, Isaacs as a Constitutional Office holder has a critical public administrative role as well as being a specialist in the rules of parliamentary procedures and practices.
As Departmental Head, the Clerk administers the Parliament Office. However, the exercise of this responsibility is qualitatively different from the exercise of the normal administrative functions of a Departmental Head, because decisions made or advice given may often be subject to the scrutiny of all Members of the National Assembly and the public at large.
Contacted yesterday, the official explained that the concessions were applied for and legally granted for the conduct of mining operations.
“No illegal or unlawful act was committed. Article 158(5) (c) of the Constitution is clear. It does not prevent me, as Clerk of the National Assembly, from being in business,” he said.
As a matter of fact, the Constitution says that “An officer so appointed shall not, during his or her continuance in the Office of Clerk or Deputy Clerk, perform the functions of any public office …”
The Constitution, Isaacs insisted, does not say that he cannot be a farmer or miner and cannot hold concessions for agricultural or mining purposes.
“Also, I am of the opinion that the holding of the concessions by me does not give rise to a conflict of interest. Further, as far as I know, I have not contravened any code of conduct or other rules in relation to the Office of Clerk of the National Assembly.”
According to GGMC information, Isaacs in 2012 acquired 27 concessions.
Of the total 45 concessions he has, 20 of them are in his name while the remainder is with a number of partners.
Eight of the concessions have been converted to Mining Permits with the rest to Prospecting Permits Medium Scale (PPMS).
Earlier this year, from GGMC data, there appeared to be a mad rush under last administration to give out mining lands.
According to records, over the last two years the GGMC processed more than 4,000 applications.
In 2014, almost 3,000 transactions were recorded. This fell to just over 1,100 last year.
The figures would be significant when one considers that in 2013, more than 1,300 applications were processed. In 2012 there were 2,500 applications processed.
That was the highest recorded figure since 2005 when there were 124 transactions for mining permits, mining licences and other prospecting applications.
The number of applications actually picked up in 2009 with 971 transactions that year. In 2011 there were 1,100. This was the signal year for the rush to grab mining lands.
Of course, as world prices for gold climbed, there was that rush by miners for more lands, spiking in 2012.
A glance at the last two years also found that Chinese-owned acquisitions by the Clinton Williams-led Board grew significantly months before the May 11, 2015 General Elections which the David Granger administration won by a slim majority.
Especially benefitting were two companies–Rong An Inc. and logging company, BaiShanLin Forest Development Inc.
Buying up mining lands in his own name was BaiShanLin’s local principal, Chu Hongbo.
Chu Hongbo’s company is facing intense scrutiny for activities in Guyana where the company benefited from billions of dollars in tax waivers and other concessions, including logging and housing lands.
GGMC’s Board of Directors was chaired over the last two years by Clinton Williams.
However, the life of that controversial Board came to an end in December with Government naming city businessman, Stanley Ming, as the new Chairman.
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