A forensic audit report into the Pradoville Two land at Sparendaam that was allocated to former President Bharrat Jagdeo and several top officials, including ministers of his last administration, is pointing to several irregularities.
Using state funds from a mixture of entities controlled by Government, infrastructure was built, including roads and drains and utilities, with some of them laid underground over a 15-acre plot.
At the end the day, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) which should have overlooked the project had little say in the transactions. Rather, the agency acted a mere collector of fees.
CH&PA inexplicably collected only US$200,000 ($40M) for the prime land.
Former Auditor General Dr. Anand Goolsarran, using conservative 2009 estimates tagged to the Marriott Hotel property, said the lands are valued about $1.24B (US$6M) or about $82.8M (US$400,000) per acre.
Auditors found the 15-acre plot was converted to 28 house lots, covering 12 acres. The remaining lands were used up for roads.
There was no evidence that the rest of Guyana had opportunities to express an interest in the lands.
It is how the lands were allocated that saw Jagdeo, and several officials, including ministers, questioned extensively about how they ended up with plots of lands which cost between $1.5M to about $2M. Jagdeo paid a little more for his two-acre plot.
The police’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has completed its complex investigations which covered several months and involved the hiring of a valuator.
Investigators had even visited Jagdeo’s Opposition Leader offices on Church Street, in search of a number of ex-officials to question them.
Already in court are former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington, former head of the Privatisation Unit, who both live and work in the US now. They have been slapped with charges of Misconduct in Public Office for other questionable land transactions.
Both men are challenging the charges in the High Court.
According to the forensic audit report, instead of accumulating all the costs associated with the Sparendaam project in a special account to be applied in arriving at the price to be charged per house lot, Cabinet and its state agency, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) were complicit in hiding the related expenditure to the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN) in the form of equity investment and to the CH&PA in the form of receivables.
“The fact that the majority of the Cabinet members are the beneficiaries of the house lots rendered it highly inappropriate for the very Cabinet to approve of the charging of the expenditure of $257.049M to the accounts of NCN and CH&PA,” the damning report has said.
The Pradoville 2 investigations are but part of several spawning from the audit report of NICIL. There are more than 200 other probes that SOCU, which has come under fire from the Opposition from time to time, still has to sink its teeth into.
The audit report by Dr. Goolsarran, who is a former Auditor General, has also found damning evidence that the plots of land were transferred to Jagdeo, and his former officials, despite the land up to now still belonging to NCN.
A number of former ministers have signaled a willingness to pay the difference on their land on the now evaluated Pradoville Two, as the Sparendaam lands have been infamously dubbed by locals.
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, 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.
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