The controversial sale of a Duke Street property to businessman, Captain Gerald Gouveia, almost eight years ago is refusing to go away.
There are indications that investigators, looking into the transactions of the state-owned Privisation Unit (PU) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Ltd (NICIL) will attempt to determine whether any conflict of interest situation arose in the questionable sale of Lot 52 or 93B Duke Street, Kingston, Georgetown.
This is on top of several other burning questions about that transaction.
Gouveia, who has business interests in aviation and the hotel industry, sat on the board of the Privatisation Unit as a private sector representative from 2008 to 2015, according to online records of that entity.
It was never made clear whether the businessman recused himself from the deliberations of the transactions. This was even as other bidders came in higher.
A report of a forensic audit into the operations of the entities, ordered by the present administration after they took office in 2015, has been handed over to the police.
Already, several persons have been questioned about the Pradoville Two land sales, on the East Coast Demerara, where several persons, including former ministers, and relatives of high ranking officials allegedly benefitted from low prices for the seaside properties.
The investigations into Pradoville Two are being handled by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), an arm of the police which is set to look at other transactions of NICIL/PU.
According to documents seen, including minutes, sitting with Gouveia on the PU board back in 2009 were former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh; former Minister of Trade, Manniram Prashad; former Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud; consumer advocate, Pat Dial; union official, Grantly Culbard and NICIL’s executive Director, Winston Brassington.
The sale of the property, located across the road from the US embassy had made headlines, not only because of its prime location and the seemingly low price paid, but also the circumstances in which the decision was taken by Brassington and the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic, Government.
In July 2009, Cabinet approved the sale of the said property to the late real estate broker, Anthony Reid, for the sum of $63M plus VAT.
According to news report, a notice of bid approval was sent to Reid in July notifying him of the decision. However, Reid on August 10 withdrew his bid, which left another company, El Dorado Trading, with the next highest bid of $49.5M.
However, the property, despite protests from the El Dorado, was sold to Gouveia, who was a board member, for $43M.
By this time, the businessman had already acquired the prized Duke Lodge, located next door.
Kaieteur News was told that lawyers for other bidders filed protests with NICIL/PU but in vain.
The government, in a statement, noted that a second ranked bidder has no automatic right to succeed the number one ranked bid.
The property in question was known as the Office of Empowerment and was advertised for sale from May 31, 2009 to June 16, 2009. Five bids were received and a recommendation was made by NICIL to sell to the highest bidder who was Reid.
The matter had engaged the attention of several critics including former PPP executive and House Speaker, Ralph Ramkarran.
In December 2015, Ramkarran in a Letter to the Editor was highly critical of reports that the then Government, under former President Bharrat Jagdeo, had instructed ministers to discuss with the bidders the issue as to who would get the property.
“Mr Gouveia, not surprisingly, was successful,” Ramkarran wrote.
The blogger noted that the Procurement Act has made it clear that: “There shall be no negotiation between the procuring entity and any of the bidders.”
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