– Official says GuyOil is the only company holding things together
The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has found itself in a rather worrying state of affairs.
The entity which was once used as a parallel treasury is now owed millions of dollars by various companies and state agencies. And that’s not the worst part. NICIL is actually too broke to even go after all of its debtors.
This was recently explained to Kaieteur News by NICIL Head, Horace James.
The official explained that NICIL is unable to go after its debtors as its investments in the Berbice Bridge and the Marriott Hotel “do not bring in a cent.” He said that the Guyana Oil Company (GuyOil) is the only company which has been submitting substantial dividends. James said that GuyOil is the only company that is holding things together.
The NICIL officer said, “As it stands, NICIL is in need of liquid cash. The main reason affecting our cash position is all our investments have been tied up in the Marriott. Also, we have a lot of nonpaying people that we now have in court.”
James said that some of the debtors include Caricom Insurance -$121M; Hong Kong Golden Telecom Company-US$5M; BaiShanLin -$25M, Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) -$17M and Sithe Global- $151M. The NICIL Head complained that the total money owed by all of its debtors is $1.7B.
He added, “The reality is that NICIL does not have money to go after its debtors. So our biggest concern is going behind our debtors. But remember, it is an expensive thing.”
Last year, NICIL’s Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle, bemoaned the fact that under the previous administration, the entity was run with little to no transparency and accountability for investment decisions. He also spoke against the way in which taxpayers were kept in the dark about the happenings of the state-owned company.
In the forensic audit report which was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, it was recommended that the entity be closed down and a small department opened under the Ministry of Finance, if Government deems it necessary.
It was explained that the reason for such a recommendation was premised on the fact that NICIL was initially established for the purpose of privatization of state assets. That was done in two phases in the 1990s.
Since that phase ended years ago, the report recommends that there is no need for NICIL to remain a company. It says that it should be liquidated and Government should make moves to establish a department to manage the assets being held by the company.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan said, however, that he is not inclined to go this route, and has since made it clear that the entity is necessary.
Meanwhile, Goolsarran had told this newspaper that he is deeply disappointed that recommendations to shut down NICIL have not been implemented. He reminded that it was this very administration which had at one time, called for the closure of NICIL when it sat on the opposition benches.
The former Auditor General stated that this new Government had given the commitment that it would not use NICIL in an abusive manner.
“However, what Government must see is the bigger picture. What will happen when there is another government in place? Too late shall be the cry then. It is a grave disappointment and NICIL should without question be brought to a halt. It practically allows too many avenues for eerie forms of corruption which the nation has witnessed under the previous administration,” expressed Goolsarran.
The anti-corruption activist also said that the forensic audit which he prepared provides irrefutable grounds which show how financial lawlessness took place at unimaginable scales at the entity.
Goolsarran said that he is in agreement with other financial minds who believe that the NICIL Board seems uninterested in going after those persons who committed grave acts within the state-owned entity.
Goolsarran recalled that a Cabinet decision was made for NICIL’s former CEO, Winston Brassington and his Deputy, Marcia Nadir-Sharma, to be sent on leave pending the outcome of investigations.
The former Auditor General said it is troubling that months later, not a word has been said by NICIL to the nation regarding the status of these investigations. He stressed that NICIL needs to remove itself from the veil of secrecy.
Goolsarran nevertheless maintained that “NICIL has been at the centre of some of the worst corrupt acts of our time and it must be closed down.”
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