Jan 08, 2017 News
After 20 months in office, the APNU+AFC administration continues to fall short of its promise to restore transparency and to address a number of issues which reek of corruption.
In fact, President David Granger has entered the New Year with unfinished business from 2016. In a number of instances, his administration promised last year that there would be significant action regarding certain issues but it continues to leave much to be desired.
Here are just a few of the issues which the Head of State is yet to pursue, aggressively.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION ACT
Since the appointment of former Chief Justice, Charles Ramson Snr. as Commissioner of Information in 2013, Parliament is yet to receive a report on the application of the Access to Information Act as well as the operations of his office.
While Parliament is left in the dark about the work of the Commissioner of Information, Ramson Snr. continues to draw a salary of approximately $1.2M a month. After 18 months in office, the Government is yet to take affirmative action on this matter.
It was the APNU+AFC Government that insisted that justice will be served when it comes to the illegal spending of $4.5B from the Consolidated Fund by former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh. To date, there has been no movement on this matter even as the Government continuously claims that it intends to hold officials accountable for their corrupt acts.
OMBUDSMAN’S REPORT STILL TO BE ACTED ON
If no action on the reports of the Ombudsman is taken, then what is the point of having one? This question has been asked time and again by anti-corruption activists as they reflect on Government’s inaction on the damning reports of the late Ombudsman, Winston Moore.
One report deals with the issue of Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon and the University of Guyana.
Kissoon was on a contract with the University of Guyana, but it was abruptly terminated by the tertiary institution in January 18, 2012. This was in spite of the fact that Kissoon’s contract had five months remaining, at the end of which, he would have reached the age of retirement.
The University said that it merely ended the contract earlier – eight months before the contract expired. The contract stipulated that it could be terminated and three months’ salary paid in lieu of notice.
Kissoon did not hear from the University despite several efforts for a reason for why his contract was terminated prematurely.
Moore had also ruled on another controversial matter relating to the New Building Society (NBS).
The Office of the Ombudsman concluded in November 2015 that police wrongfully charged the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and two of his managers for an alleged $69M fraud at the New Building Society, in 2006.
After 18 months, the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) continues to be confined to a straitjacket as it awaits the passage of its draft legislation which was finished since last year September. Anti-corruption advocates believe that the Government has no excuse for not moving swiftly on the matter and have even accused the Government of undermining the Unit.
From 2015 to now, more than 30 forensic audits and special reports on a number of controversial projects and agencies have been released by the coalition administration.
These reports which have cost taxpayers more than $100M, document numerous instances of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of state resources.
In spite of this, there has been no action of consequence against those who have been fingered in the corrupt acts, and the public remains uninformed.
SANATA COMPLEX /WELL
For more than three decades, this well was under the control of Government. Then in the last decade, a water well at the Sanata Textile Complex, Ruimveldt was sold for an unstated price. In fact, the nation is uncertain if the well was actually sold or simply handed over with the complex.
What is known was that the transaction was done under questionable circumstances by NICIL to Queens Atlantic Investments Inc, a group of companies under the direction of Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, the best friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Dr Ramroop was found to be in breach of all the terms and conditions of the Purchase Agreement for the Complex.
Since the matter of the well has come to the attention of the Government, no prompt action has been taken to review the Sanata Complex Deal with an aim to retrieve what is essentially a state asset.
CONTRACTS TO BE RELEASED
Despite President David Granger himself saying that he believes all contracts and concession agreements should be made public, a brick wall continues to face media operatives who try to get such documents.
Transparency advocates believe that this should not be the case. They are saying that citizens have a right to know what is going on once the information does not interfere with national security.
PRADOVILLE TWO CASE
The infamous Pradoville Two case remains a crucial area of contention with many local critics. It has been more than year and no action has been taken.
INFAMOUS LAND DEALS
A significant portion of the front part of the former cane fields, stretching from Eccles to Diamond, has ended up mainly in the hands of close friends of the PPP leaders and party officials.
The situation has now left Government scrambling to find lands for almost 10,000 applicants for house lots that are reportedly pending.
Government has been saying for months that it would investigate these land deals and revoke those which were found to be illegally granted. It is yet to do this.
For months, several Government officials sought to defend the US$5.7M out-of-court settlement with BK International, claiming that had the government decided to challenge any suit, then it would have risked losing double the amount.
Government officials also suggested that BK International’s initial claim of US$10M was made before the courts, hence the haste to hammer out the deal and pay the contractor off as quickly as possible.
Efforts to get hold of documents to that effect all proved futile. Court officials said that no such records existed. Attorney General Basil Williams refused to cooperate, and the owner of the company, Brian Tiwarie, made numerous promises to provide the mystery document, but failed to do so.
Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan subsequently revealed that BK never moved to the court for compensation. He said that by way of letter, BK made a claim for over US$10M to the government.
Why Government caved due to a letter as opposed to taking BK to court for breaching his very contract remains unanswered. The President has also remained silent on the issue.
BK $900M STEEL
The questionable acquisition by BK International of eight containers of steel, worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Government, is refusing to go away.
A valuation of the contents of the containers early last year had placed the value around $900M. BK claimed that it received the eight containers of steel based on a court judgment which was executed in July last year.
That judgement came after BK sued Indian contractor, Surendra Engineering Company Limited (SECL), for work on the troubled Specialty Hospital at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara. BK was claiming $180M in a lawsuit filed in mid-2014.
How the company received the $900M worth in steel when its judgment was for $180M is what is raising questions.
More important, why all eight containers were handed over is what remains baffling and the government continues to remain quiet on the issue.
FUEL EXPORT LICENCE
Government’s silence over a fuel import and wholesale licence granted to a company that was formed just three months before the historic May 11, 2015 elections, remains deafening.
The company, Atlantic Fuels Inc., has five directors, one of which is Dr. Richard Van-West Charles. With fuel being one of the most lucrative of business in Guyana, rivaling gold for generating cash, licences have been a coveted thing for businessmen wanting to enter the trade.
KATO SCHOOL INVESTIGATIONS
Kaieteur News had carried a story stating that the Chambers of the Attorney General would be conducting an investigation into the Kato Secondary School in light of numerous defects which were found during a site visit. To date, Attorney General Basil Williams is yet to state what has become of this investigation and if the responsible contractors would be held liable for producing shoddy work.
During the election campaign, the Coalition complained on numerous occasions that it suffered from the PPP’s domination of the airwaves.
During its time in the Opposition benches, it called over and over for the revocation of those licences which were illegally granted by former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, to his friends, family members and favourites before he ended his terms in office, back in 2011.
Even with new board members in place at the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority since2015, the Government is still to say how soon the nation can see the settling of this matter which it deemed on several occasions to be a national tragedy.
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