May 21, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe- Campbell
Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, claims that he was being blackmailed by his successor, Basil Williams. He also says that the quantity of state funds utilized for his personal benefit is way more than was previously reported.
Kaieteur News reported that former President Donald Ramotar admitted to Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, that he authorized the Ministry of Legal Affairs to stand expenses for Nandlall’s law books.
However, the newspaper only knew about one set of books that were paid for by the state. But Nandlall has indicated that he received about four sets of law books per year for his well over three years in office.
A few months ago, Williams asked the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary (PS), Indira Anandjit, to proceed on administrative leave to facilitate an audit into the disappearance of millions of dollars worth of law books and computer accessories.
The Minister said that the missing Commonwealth Law Books are valued at almost $3M and the computer parts are estimated over $2M.
On Thursday, Williams said that Ramotar told the auditor that he had a “private arrangement” with Nandlall for the State to pay for the books despite the fact that it was for his personal use.
Yesterday, Nandlall said that it is more than what the media knows of. He said that he commenced subscribing to Lexis Nexis, (UK), publishers of The Commonwealth Law Reports, about 12 years ago.
“The arrangement is that individual Law Reports are shipped to me in my name at my law office along with an invoice which is paid by me upon receipt of the Reports. In discussions which I had with His Excellency, President Donald Ramotar, immediately prior to my appointment as Attorney- General and Minister of Legal Affairs, I specifically requested, as a condition of my service, that the Government of Guyana take over payment arrangements for these books during my tenure as a Minister.”
Nandlall said that this was agreed upon as a condition of his service as Attorney- General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
He said that he collected about four volumes a year. This benefit came in addition to his almost $2M salary, chauffeur, State vehicle, and paid utility bills.
Nandlall said that when he demitted office, he so informed Lexis Nexis and requested that the payment arrangement which existed hitherto be re-activated.
Mounting a defence for the arrangement, Nandlall said that he is aware that for decades prior, the Government of Guyana, like other government, through its various agencies, pay for professional and technical publications, journals, periodicals, magazines, etc. for Ministers and professional and technical personnel, as a standard operational expenditure.
“Membership and subscription fees to professional bodies, locally and internationally, are also sometimes paid.”
He added that when he formally handed over to Williams, he fully briefed him on this matter.
“I do not recall him raising any objections whatsoever. A few months later, when I read in the press that an investigation is being launched into, inter alia, these very books, I enquired of the Attorney-General the reason for this investigation. I reminded him that I had earlier fully briefed him on this matter. His response was that I should stay out of this matter and that this is a matter between him and the Permanent Secretary.”
Nandlall said that during the course of the investigation, he was asked by the Auditor- General to furnish a response in respect of the said books. “I did so in writing. Former President, Donald Ramotar, wrote a letter confirming the particular condition of my contract for service in respect of these books. In those circumstances, the Auditor General made no adverse finding against me or the Permanent Secretary.
This seemed to have enraged the Attorney- General and he enquired of me why I defended the Permanent Secretary. It became more than obvious that the removal of the Permanent Secretary was his ultimate objective and that my intervention was an obstacle.
“However, I felt compelled to defend an innocent professional woman who was, obviously, the victim of a political vendetta. For this, I offer no regret.”
Nandlall said that on several occasions over the past five months, Williams, both in jest and seriousness, indicated “that if I continue to criticize him, publicly, he will make the issue of these books, public, obviously, in an attempt to embarrass me. Unfazed by such infantile intimidation, on each occasion, I told him to proceed, since I will never compromise my duty to the people of Guyana to criticize and expose executive conduct which warrant criticisms and exposure.”
Nandlall said that the disclosure by the Attorney General has come upon the heels of his statement in the press in response to GECOM’s Press Release on the legal position in respect of the local authority organs where they have been tied seats.
“My statement was published in the press on May 19, 2016, the very day that Attorney General made his disclosures. My response must have, proverbially, broke the camel’s back. However, my silence on matters of public importance can never be purchased, whatever maybe the price.”
Williams had told the media that the Auditor General took a long time to respond to the Ministry. “In fact I had to inquire.”
He said that, eventually, Sharma reported that “in the case of the law books, the former President Ramotar wrote the Auditor General’s office, and stated that he and the then Attorney General had some sort of private agreement that the Attorney General would spend money from the votes of (money budgeted for) the Ministry of Legal Affairs to buy the law books and keep them for himself.”
Williams said, “As I understand it, he (Ramotar) is saying that (the PS) is not culpable or blameworthy, because he had an agreement with Nandlall – that Nandlall could use the Ministry’s money to buy these books and keep them for himself.”
Williams said that he still cannot understand why a former President would write admitting that he was in breach of financial regulations.
The Attorney General said that Ramotar is probably depending on his presidential immunity for protection from being hauled before the courts. “But I say this… it is criminal.”
Williams emphasised that he does not accept the excuse given by Sharma.
“We do not accept that the former President could have an agreement with Nandlall to spend the state’s money for personal benefit. I do not know if being a former president he believes he has immunity.
“It is one of the strangest things you would find in any part of the world, that an agreement could be made between two government officials to spend taxpayers’ money for private purposes.”
In the interim, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Melissa Tucker, continues to act as the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary.
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