Government’s recent explanations of how millions of dollars made it into the bank accounts of children of Minister Simona Broomes is not being bought by the Opposition.
Last week, government’s spokesman, Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, disclosed that the money, almost $20M, as reported by the Opposition, is proceeds of scholarships that the children benefitted from. There were no other explanations.
Former Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Juan Edghill, pointing out that the matter was first raised in the public’s domain by the Opposition, has a number of questions that he says would have definitely been asked in the National Assembly if it was functioning in the normal situation.
The transfers to the accounts of the children took place between 2018 and this year.
A number of persons from the Department of Public Service were reportedly sacked recently for allegedly leaking the information.
President David Granger has appointed Lance Carberry to head a Board of Inquiry and submit a report by the end of this week.
“The minister must tell the nation when and under what circumstances and what criteria were used to award these scholarships.”
He explained that the Government of Guyana through bilateral arrangements has managed to enter scholarship arrangements with Mexico, Russia, India and other places.
“The government would advertise these scholarships and then there are some criteria between the Departments of Public Service. After receiving applications, the people would decide the best suited person to send on these scholarships. So the Government must say…Minister Harmon must tell the nation what were the criteria used to determine these scholarships to the children of Minister Broomes.”
According to the former minister, the second thing Harmon must explain is the actual cost of the scholarships. He pointed out that the Opposition had found out during the national budget estimate considerations a few years ago that three ministers, including Nicolette Henry and Annette Ferguson, had benefitted from scholarships.
“…all three of them, while being engaged in government were also on scholarship. So the issue here is not whether a child is bright and I would wanted to say this clearly if Minister Broomes and any other ministers’ children is deserving the scholarship…it is not an attack on anybody’s children.”
Edghill insisted, rather, that the issue is one of what is the process.
“The Minister of Public Service and now Minister of Housing and Minister of Education… all three of them are beneficiaries of government’s scholarships while in office. The question was how did they get these scholarships? Did they compete with other top people of the country or did they get it just because of political consideration?”
Edghill pointed out that it was Minister Broomes who had disclosed that she had relinquished her rights in mining, worth millions, to her daughter. He said that one can assume that the proceeds of the mining rights, thanks to an agreement with a major mining company, would have been significant to Broomes’ daughter.
“So what is the consideration that was used to give such scholarship to a child…having such lucrative income…that they could still get a government scholarship as against a child that is not able to pay that money? That is the crux of my contention…”
Edghill, who is one of the shadow ministers in the National Assembly for finance, noted also there is still another important aspect…that of affordability.
“Minister Harmon in his response also said the Minister’s daughter was the top student at a private school. Now the question is, did the Minister’s daughter source her own university, started as a student and after being enrolled asked the government to pick up the bill or was this agreement done before the child was enrolled to the university?”
Edghill explained that it is important to know, as there could have been an existing scholarship, which existed that would have placed no burden on the Government of Guyana.
“…but if the child wanted to study in Harvard and refused to go to Germany, you start studying in Harvard which is quite an expensive institution and when you started studying you used the government political connection to get the government to pick up the bill then something is wrong…”
Edghill admitted that these are issues that people don’t want to talk about.
“The deposit of the money into the account of the children is a matter that should raise red flags and Harmon should have addressed that by saying these deposit were there for tuition or for accommodation, book allowances…clothes allowances, etc.”
The Opposition parliamentarian noted that the matter had been in the public’s domain for a month before it was addressed by Harmon.
“This is somebody (Broomes) who takes to her Facebook page and speaks very regularly but there was deafening silence (on this).”
Edghill said that this situation raises alarming questions as to whether there are other situations where similar benefits are also available for the children of other ministers and top officials.
He said that had Parliament been functioning as it should, the issues would have been raised. According to the Opposition official, there would be questions too if the matter went to Cabinet for approval and explanations to assure the Guyanese people that the payments to the Minister’s children is not a back-hand arrangement for political consideration.
“And it is these issues that have been left in the air that are not being answered that cause us to seriously question the manner in which the APNU+AFC government and the Granger-led government is handling public money…taxpayers’ money.”
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