The theft of State assets such as prime pieces of land is an issue regulatory bodies have tried and failed to arrest. But former Petroleum Advisor and Consultant, Dr. Jan Mangal believes that there is a way to tackle this issue successfully.
During an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News, the consultant said the creation of an inventory of all State land assets in an online geographical information system (GIS) may very well be the solution for Guyana.
Expounding further, Dr. Mangal said: “State land is the property of the people and does not belong to politicians. Any transaction involving State land has to be transparent and must have a clear demonstrated benefit to the people of Guyana. Why dispose of the people’s assets if the people do not derive significant benefit?”
The consultant added: “To tackle possible thefts of State assets by politicians of both major parties, we could create an inventory of all state land assets in an online geographical information system (GIS). This public online inventory, which might look similar to Google maps, would show all land sales along with the date, buyers, sellers (officials name), sale price and market price, and would need to go back at least ten or more years.”
In this way, he said, Guyanese can easily see who benefited at their expense, by comparing the sale price with the market price.
The former Presidential Advisor said this public shaming of officials and beneficiaries is an important aspect of justice. Following this, he said that the authorities could then focus investigations on all the sales over the last 10 years where there is a big discrepancy between the sale price and market price.
Dr. Mangal said that Guyana would need an independent body to set the market prices.
In this regard, a respected international audit firm could be used while recommending that Guyana can also develop a similar system for other state assets, like mining leases, where a simple GIS online tool would enlighten Guyanese to the theft of their resources and assets.
“This would be an eye-opener to many,” he concluded.
THAT INFAMOUS PRADOVILLE TWO CASE
For more than four years, investigators at the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) have struggled with efforts to reclaim all assets it believed were stolen under the previous administration.
One of its most high profile cases involves the sale of Pradoville Two lands to affiliates of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)/CIVIC.
In early October 2015, SARU had completed a report on this matter where it stated that in 2010, the Bharrat Jagdeo Cabinet made a decision authorising the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to a parcel of privatize state lands.
NICIL is the body tasked with overseeing the privatisation of state assets. It reportedly spent more than $200M to develop the sea front community without the knowledge and blessings of the National Assembly and other relevant bodies.
The said lands were then secretly sold to the former ministers and known friends and associates of the previous regime.
At the time of the sale, the report said, the lands were grossly undervalued and sold at a price substantially below the market value, thereby depriving the state of its full benefits.
SARU had said, “There is a direct link between the misconduct and the abuse of powers and duties of their position. The former Cabinet members knew they were doing a wrong in transferring State lands to their names and that of their acquaintances for undervalued market prices for the land. The lands were sold for $114 per square foot at the time.”
Thus far, SARA has not been able recover any of the lands sold but it was successful in getting $40M worth in settlements for two of the Pradoville properties.
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