Nov 10, 2016 News
Embattled General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Nizam Hassan, has applied for and was granted one week vacation leave.
Hassan, who was slapped with fraud charges on Monday and had appeared in court, would have been facing a possible decision by his board which met yesterday.
However, from indications, Hassan went on one week leave, starting yesterday.
Contracted, Chairman of GRDB, Claude Housty, said that the General Manager has applied for and has been granted vacation leave. The official would not be drawn into whether the board has taken any decision.
“It is up to the powers that be to do what they wish based of whatever advice they get from whatever source after that leave is finished.” Hassan is expected back at work next week.
Hassan, a former General Manager of the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC), appeared in court on Monday slapped with fraud charges relating to transactions that happened while he was in charge of that entity.
Hassan is also facing investigations into a multi-million-dollar fertilizer programme, launched by the last two administrations of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic and handled by GMC.
There were a number of questionable payments and transfers that the forensic audit of GMC unearthed. That probe is still ongoing.
His appearance in court raised questions as to what would happen now as he is currently in charge of GRDB, the body that oversees rice production and trade in the country.
Rice has been among the top three foreign currency earners in Guyana with GRDB a key agency of the Ministry of Agriculture.
On Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, could not immediately say whether Hassan would be asked to proceed on leave pending the outcome of the criminal charge.
“I will have to be guided by Cabinet. What I can tell you is that the GRDB board is to meet (today) to discuss the issue. The discussions will guide the way forward,” the Minister said.
Hassan’s case is generating significant interest as it is one of the few that came out of the forensic audits into state agencies ordered by the administration when it came into office last year.
The audits have unearthed at the least poor management with criminal intentions and negligence in some instances.
There have been many criticisms over the pace of investigations and sloth in bringing charges, despite evidence of wrongdoings.
Hassan’s case would also bear sharp undertones of the Carvil Duncan case.
Duncan, Chairman of the Public Service Commission and member of a number of other constitutional bodies, was suspended after he was charged earlier this year for monies he allegedly approved for himself while he was a director of the Guyana Power and Light Inc.
One of the cases was dismissed recently, but he is still before the courts on another charge.
The charges against Duncan stemmed also from the forensic audits.
The general feeling has been that executives of state agencies should proceed on administrative leave once they are facing criminal charges.
On Monday, Hassan and Felecia De Souza-Madramootoo, the wife of Hanniel Madramootoo, an engineer at the Ministry of Agriculture; appeared before a City Court charged in relation to a scandal that involved the GMC headquarters at Robb and Alexander Streets, Bourda, Georgetown.
They are jointly charged with Madramootoo; his brother Phillip Madramootoo and his friend, Nizam Ramkissoon, both Directors of Constantine Engineering and Construction Services Limited, of Trinidad and Tobago, with conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor of procuring money to be paid by false pretence with intent to defraud.
The Special Organised Crime Unit had approached Trinidad and Tobago for help with prosecuting the Trinidadians. This help has not been forthcoming.
The charges were reportedly instituted on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It was alleged that between October 28, 2010 and April 25, 2012 they conspired with each other to commit the offence by continuously approving payments which were made to the contractor of the engineering firm for works that were incompetently and incorrectly done with inferior materials to rehabilitate the GMC; despite knowing that such works should not have been approved.
Hassan, 50, of Good Hope, East Coast Demerara and De Souza-Madramootoo, 34, of Lusignan, East Coast Demerara were the only ones present for the court hearing.
They were not required to plead to the indictable charge read to them by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
They were each released on $250,000 bail and instructed to report to the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) Headquarters, Camp Street, Georgetown.
Arrest warrants have since been issued for the others.
Charges were recommended against the former GM and several other persons after SOCU completed its report into the investigations of the multi-million dollar construction of the GMC office building.
A forensic audit report submitted back in April by auditor, Saykar Boodhoo, had flagged the construction, citing several worrying things at GMC, an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture. The forensic audit report was sent to Cabinet where it was decided that the findings of the report were serious enough to warrant a deeper investigation into not only the construction of the building but also into the handling of hundreds of millions of dollars of fertilizers.
De Souza-Madramootoo was represented by Attorney Glenn Hanoman while Attorney Marcel Bobb entered an appearance on behalf of Hassan. Both lawyers told the court that their clients had fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by SOCU.
Police Prosecutor, Neville Jeffers did not oppose bail for the accused. However, Jeffers requested that reporting conditions are applied and that they lodge their passports.
The police file is still incomplete in this matter which has been adjourned until December 7.
According to Government sources, investigations found that the principals of the contracting company are close relatives of the engineer. Investigations reportedly also found that
Madramootoo allegedly used his wife to conduct transactions at the Tender Board relating to the project.
The forensic audit which triggered the recommendations for the charges would tell a worrying tale of how things were at GMC between January 1, 2012 and May 31, 2015, the time under review.
With regards to the construction of the building, in 2011 a contract was awarded to Constantine Engineering and Construction Services to build a new head office for GMC and the Guyana Shop, which it runs.
A contract in the amount of $23.96M was awarded by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). The auditor could not review the bidding documents as NPTAB could not find any information that it was involved in the tender process even though the contract indicated otherwise.
Hanniel Madramootoo, an engineer attached to the Ministry of Agriculture was assigned to oversee the construction of the building.
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