May 08, 2018 News
Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams says that he saved Guyana in excess of $63M when he decided to enter into an out of court settlement with Guyana Tractor Equipment (Guytrac), causing the State to pay $226M.
Yesterday, the AG issued a press statement in an effort to “bring clarity to the ludicrous contents” of an article published in this newspaper. The article highlighted the fact that AG Chambers had filed an appeal after it lost a case against Guytrac but soon quashed that appeal and decided to settle the matter out of the judicial system.
(Read online via link: https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/05/04/govt-agrees-to-pay-guytrac-226m-in-yet-another-out-of-court-settlement/.)
Williams noted that under the previous administration, Guytrac was awarded a contract to supply the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) with equipment but the PPP/C Cabinet then withdrew its’ no objection. As a result, Guytrac commenced an action on the 1st June 2015, suing the NDIA and the Attorney General for breach of contract.
The AG said that the matter was conducted solely by former Deputy Solicitor General Prithima Kissoon. He said that Kissoon prepared and filed pleadings on behalf of the State “in which she assisted the case for the defence without regard to specific instructions from the Honourable Attorney General. By the time the Honourable Attorney General attempted to intervene in the matter Ms. Kissoon had already filed pleadings, conducted the trial, argued and filed submissions.”
Williams said that it was because Kissoon “failed to obey specific instructions, the State lost.”
He noted that Justice Diana Insanally awarded damages for breach of contract in the sum of G$226,161,235; damages for loss of profit in the sum of G$44,602.000 as a result of the breach of the contract on the part of the Defendant; damages in the sum of G$19,000,000 and interest on any award at the rate of six percent per annum from the date of filing to the date of judgment and at the rate of four percent per annum until fully paid.
Williams said that “Given the Order of the Court and the manner in which the case was conducted by Ms. Kissoon, it was in the best interest of NDIA and the Government of Guyana to amicably resolve this matter.”
The AG said that based on the instructions of NDIA government decided to pay $226M to Guytrac for heavy duty equipment.
Williams said that the government “in the public’s interest” negotiated that the settlement would not include damages for loss of profit in the sum of $44.6M; damages in the sum of $19M; interest on any award at the rate of 6 percent per annum from the date of filing to the date of judgment and at the rate of 4 percent per annum until fully paid as per the Judge’s order.
The AG noted that Guytrac agreed to forego in excess of $63M.
In his statement, Williams failed to speak to certain key issues highlighted in the article to which he was responding. The AG spoke nothing of the appeal, not even to explain why he would have filed an appeal if he thought the State did not have a strong case and why he quashed it if he thought the State did.
Also, Williams did not speak to the issue where he informed Justice Insanally and the President in writing that he would have handled the case, but then kept asking for adjournments each time the matter was called. As such, he left the matter to be handled by Kissoon, whom he thought was working against the State while working for the State.
Kissoon has told Kaieteur News that Williams requested several adjournments from the court, lasting over one month. She said that after a few adjournments, Justice Insanally directed that the matter had to proceed.
Kaieteur News had sought to speak to the AG about these and other matters, but he refused to do so.
Just as the AG said in his statement yesterday, the PPP/C Cabinet had withdrawn its no objection to the awarding of the contract. But this was after Cabinet reportedly learnt that the equipment arrived in Guyana even before the contract was awarded, suggesting that Guytrac may have been given a heads up about the need for the equipment and was further assured that it would have been able to secure the contract.
As a result, the Donald Ramotar administration wanted the contract rescinded. A Cabinet memorandum to that effect, dated 17th December 2014, was sent to NPTAB and NDIA. Cabinet stated explicitly that it was rescinding it’s no objection and ordered that an evaluation be redone.
It is not clear, if the evaluation was ever redone.
However, according to a court document in this newspaper’s possession, on March 3, 2015, NPTAB “legally terminated” the contract in writing. The reason given to Guytrac was the absence of a security performance bond. NDIA claimed that even before the contract was terminated, Guytrac was informed that it needed to provide the critical performance bond.
After the contract was terminated, Guytrac took NPTAB to court.
There are customs documents proving that the pieces of equipment were in Guyana before the contract was awarded to Guytrac. Nevertheless, the coalition government has already petitioned the National Assembly for approval of the $226M in a supplementary paper. The paper is still to be considered.
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