Almost six years ago the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana [CIOG], announced that it had secured funding for the construction of a medical facility in the capital city. Based on information disseminated by the entity, the funding was forthcoming from the Islamic Development Bank.
But to date, not only is the construction of the facility yet to materialise but a businessman is reportedly gearing to take the principals of the religious organisation to court for failure to show evidence of how a substantial sum he donated towards the very project has been or will be utilised.
The donor in question is businessman Mozamil Ouhla, a Guyanese who migrated to the United Kingdom some years ago. Based on money transfer documents shared with this publication, Ouhla made an initial foreign exchange payment of £90,000 [equivalent to some $27 million] to the CIOG.
Relating the situation to this publication recently was the man’s daughter, Fazia Ouhla, who said that her father is especially disappointed that a project he’d expected to cater to the less fortunate of the land of his birth has not yet come to fruition. Added to this, she said that her father is particularly worried that no explanation or attempts have been made by the organisation tasked with spearheading the project to appease his concerns.
According to Fazia, her father has reached a point where he simply wants his money back, hence the move towards legal action.
Reflecting on the genesis of the collaboration with the CIOG, Fazia said that it all started back in 2007 when her father approached the High Commissioner in London [then Mr. Lall Singh] in order to donate a sum of money to build a dialysis unit.
According to Fazia, the High Commissioner in turn directed her father to the CIOG which saw efforts being made to reach out to the religious organisation shortly after. “They said that there is something that they could do…that they had some land that they were waiting to get hold of on which we could build a dialysis unit,” Fazia related. The land in question, she said, is a vacant lot situated at Thomas Street, Georgetown.
But according to Fazia, a few years after the initial discussion, forward movement in terms of the construction of a dialysis unit was stalled. She, however, noted that the discussion resumed but with a new development since the representatives of the CIOG decided that instead of a dialysis unit, moves should be made towards the construction of a maternity and paediatric hospital. The decision, according to Fazia, was premised on observation that a number of facilities offering dialysis services were emerging.
According to Fazia, her father had a local representative [a former Finance Director at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation] who was in full agreement with the decision made by CIOG. As such, she said that her father proceeded to take the necessary measures to send money towards the worthy cause.
This, she said, entailed securing clearance from the United Kingdom government to send the requisite donation to the CIOG. However, the process required that the recipient of the finance be investigated by the UK’s Charity Aid Foundation [CAF].
“CAF had to vet CIOG and it was a rigorous vetting… which they went through and we were given approval to donate this money. They [CAF] said when you are ready to donate, the money goes from my father’s account, to the CAF account and from the CAF account it goes to the CIOG’s account,” Fazia explained.
Based on the money transfer documents seen by this publication the money was transferred to the CIOG on April 28, 2014.
Fazia noted that while the cost of the facility was pegged at £500,000, her father opted to donate £90,000. She said that her father was aware that the CIOG was also poised to receive funding from the Islamic Development Bank.
In a statement sent out by the hospital in March 2012, the CIOG announced that it had secured financing for the construction of a medical facility to be built in the city. Described as a “fully functional hospital,” the CIOG said that the facility is expected to provide obstetrics and gynaecological services and be linked to an in-patient building.
A renal dialysis unit, it said, was also being considered for part of the health care facility.
In highlighting the Islamic Development Bank as its source of financing, the CIOG in an advertisement asked for expressions of interest for a consultant pointing out that “It is intended that part of the proceeds of this financing be applied to eligible payments for the design and supervision of construction consultancy services for the establishment of the facility.”
It added, “This request for expressions of interest is open to all eligible building consultants for possible short listing to submit technical and financial proposals for the execution of consultancy services. Construction will be either under a single contract or phased.”
The fact that her father was not mentioned as a donor was brought to the attention of the CIOG but according to Fazia nothing was done to fix this discrepancy.
But added to this, Fazia said that for the following, her father visited to ascertain the progress of the project. In addition to being told of an astronomical architecture fee [which she claimed was not tendered for], Fazia said that her father also later learnt that her father’s representative was eventually sidelined from the discussion with the CIOG officials altogether. It eventually became clear to the Ouhlas that the project was entirely stalled.
“This has been going on for too long; we are now in 2018… We have asked for a breakdown of what they have spent the money on…nothing. There is no point in continuing because we don’t know what’s going on,” said Fazia.
She continued, “If we knew this is how they are, we could have given the money to somewhere else. There is the Georgetown Public Hospital and I’m sure they could have done a lot with that money or we could have given it to some Government organisation such as the Ministry of Health…It is unfortunate that we were directed to the CIOG by the High Commissioner.”
Given the state of affairs, the Ouhla family has been looking to recover the donated money legally to the CIOG. But Fazia recalled how the first lawyer that her father retained recused himself from the matter after doing nothing for close to one year because of a reported conflict of interest.
Currently armed with a new lawyer, Fazia said that her father is prepared to move full speed ahead with legal action to regain the money he donated.
“We tried to negotiate with them without having to go to court but it is as if they are above the law. They probably think because we live overseas, we are not going to bother with it and we are just going to let £90,000 disappear.
“We won’t let it go! There is a principal…people from overseas want to help the country; by now there should have been a brand new hospital in Georgetown, which should have been free to those who can’t afford it and a small fee for those who can afford it,” said Fazia.
But an official at the CIOG is refuting the non-disclosure claims levelled by the Ouhla family. The official in question, who claimed to be the acting General Manager of CIOG, acknowledged that while Mr. Ouhla indeed donated towards the construction of the facility, information has always been made available. This, of course, has been categorically denied by Fazia.
“I am aware of them, Mr. Ouhla and his daughter…Indeed, he has contributed to the project and I really can’t understand how he could be saying otherwise,” said the CIOG official.
“We are still in the process of finalising the paper work and getting the permit and so forth. As soon as that is finalised then we will be proceeding.”
“You have to get certain documentation in place before you could proceed with a project like that,” said the official who further pointed out, “The Islamic Development Bank is on board with us but we are yet to get certain documents from Government before we proceed and that is exactly where we are at this point.”
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