There is no evidence that over 12 acres of lands at Goedverwagting/Sparendaam sold to several ex-ministers and state officials during the reign of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) were ever transferred to the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA).
From all evidence, the lands belong to the National Communications Network (NCN), a state entity which runs radio and television stations.
Yet, CH&PA, a state agency charged with overseeing housing programmes, collected $40,495,744 as payments for those lands.
The sale of the lands and the use of state resources to develop it along the below-market price is what has been engaging the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), a police unit which focuses on corruption and money laundering.
SOCU has reportedly recommended several charges for former government officials, including ministers for the land sale.
The sale of the beachfront lands on the East Coast Demerara was one of the many scandals overshadowing the presidency of Bharrat Jagdeo, during his last days in office.
Until now, there were few details how the entire deal went down. Except that the offers for purchases were made to persons close to the administration. It was never advertised and a number of the ministers and other officials were already owners of properties.
To boot, the prices for the lands were way below, per square footage, what Guyanese would pay for housing lands from the state.
According to information acquired by Kaieteur News, the housing project at Goedverwagting/Sparendaam comprises approximately 15 acres of land of which roughly three were allocated to roadways and the remaining 12 acres surveyed and earmarked for 28 house lots.
The size of most of the lots is 0.30 acres but then Jagdeo was awarded two adjacent lots with a combined acreage of 1.9603 acres.
The land was previously owned by the Guyana Broadcasting Authority until it was vested by Order #6 of 2004 to the National Communication Network Inc. on February 25, 2004.
Following an exchange of correspondence involving the National Communications Network Inc., Ogle Airport Inc. and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, a decision was made on or around April 22, 2008 that NCN’s transmission mast was in the way of aircraft taking off and landing from the Ogle Aerodrome.
The aerodrome at that time was being expanded to meet the increasing demands for air service to the hinterland areas of Guyana. Consequently, the removal of the transmission facility to Onderneeming on the West Bank of Demerara left the land potentially vacant.
Investigators found that it is not clear when the decision was first taken for the establishment of a housing community at Ogle but at a board meeting of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) held on August 17, 2007 the then Chief Executive Winston Brassington, reported to the Board “that there were fifteen acres of land at Sparendaam that was good for sale. The Board agreed that NICIL would develop the area with high income house lots or condominiums.”
At the time NICIL, as a Government company, was chaired by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh and included the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Head of Go-Invest, Geoffrey Da Silva, Budget Director, Sonya Roopnauth and Nigel Dharamlall, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.
On March 9th, 2010, a Cabinet Decision marked ‘SECRET’ purported to vest in the CHPA “the new development project at Plantation Sparendaam”.
The president then was Bharrat Jagdeo. He would have been the head of the Cabinet too.
Legal and other minds have made it clear that the Cabinet decision does not constitute vesting of the land.
Investigators, however, found that the former Housing Ministry, of which Mr. Irfaan Ali was the Minister, and the then Registrar of Lands, Juliet Sattaur, took this Cabinet decision as legal vesting and proceeded to facilitate and issue Certificates of Title to various persons.
While Cabinet made the decision on March 9, 2010 to vest the land at Sparendaam in the CHPA, Dr. Anand Goolsarran, former Auditor General, who investigated, said that he has found no evidence to suggest that the lands were ever transferred from NCN to the housing authority.
It appears that CHPA’s eventual role was in receiving a total of $40,495,744 for lands allocated.
The files for the charges have been submitted.
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