A top-level Government official reportedly ordered a probe last year into claims of conflict of interest surrounding Minister of Housing, Valerie Adams-Yearwood and her husband.
Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, raised the issue at a press conference on Wednesday last. He had said that in 2018, President David Granger was written to and his office responded, acknowledging receipt of the letter.
An investigation was reportedly launched to ascertain whether there was a conflict of interest, given that Godfrey Yearwood, the Housing Minister’s husband, received contract awards from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) while his wife is Minister of Housing.
Jagdeo had claimed that Godfrey Yearwood’s sub-contractor was not paid. This is what prompted the letters to the President, he said.
“[The sub contractor] can’t pay his workers from the village of Victoria because the Minister’s husband is refusing to pay them for contracts that he got in a Ministry that his wife runs,” Jagdeo had told the press.
On Friday morning last, Chief Executive Officer of CH&PA, Lelon Saul, said that his office was notified of this issue.
“A complaint was lodged at the Ministry – I think it was some time last year – and we called in both parties and we advised them to settle the issue,” Saul said.
Many, including the Chief Executive Officer of the CH&PA, Lelon Saul, have opined that the situation poses a conflict of interest, since the Housing Minister presides over the awarding of contracts.
When journalists questioned her last Friday, about the contract awards to her husband, the Minister deflected responsibility to the board of CH&PA.
“The Minister is not engaged in issuance of contracts,” she had said.
She has oversight for CH&PA but has indicated to the press that she will not answer for actions taken by the body.
“The management and the board of directors of CH&PA…anything to that effect, speak to them.”
The Minister denied knowing whether her husband was granted contracts after the two got married but said she knew that he has a current contract.
The two married in August 2017 at her residence in Bel Air Gardens, Georgetown. She said that her husband was given contracts in 2016 and early 2017, before they were married.
However, a press release from the Ministry of Communities (dated February 21, 2017) titled ‘Contracts signed for building of model houses for Housing Solution 2017 and Beyond Expo’ provides information which seems to contradict the claim by the Minister that her husband’s contract, for that project, was awarded in 2016 or early 2017.
The release shows a photo of Adams-Patterson and officials of the CH&PA, with the contractors who were shortlisted at the time for the awarding of contracts for the ‘Housing Solution 2017 and Beyond Exhibition’.
That is one of the projects under which Godfrey Yearwood was awarded a contract. However, he is not included in the photo, which accompanies the release.
Further, the release states that, “From an initial 30 contractors, who expressed interested in the project, the CH&PA shortlisted 14” – “Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for housing, Valerie Adams-Patterson presided over the signing of the contracts, between the CH&PA officials and the shortlisted contractors, in the Minister’s Secretariat, Brickdam”, also contrary to the claim by the Minister that she is not engaged in the issuance of contracts.
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