Aug 15, 2020 News Comments Off on Owner will have to wait a long time for payment – Govt.
…Ocean View COVID Hospital deal might have been incestuous
By Shikema Dey
Businessman and owner of the Ocean View Infectious Diseases Sanatorium, Wilfred Rambarran will have a “long wait” to receive the rent monies owed to him after Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into the deal he said “may have been incestuous.”
The Vice President at his first press engagement with the media stated, “You would also know that the individual who claims he owns the land, he stayed quiet throughout the several months that the media was questioning what’s going on with the hospital. And suddenly, the first week of the new government, he sent a lawyer’s letter. He wants to be paid billions of dollars.”
Rambarran, who was visibly silent for months on end regarding the agreement between him and the former A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) government had recently presented an ultimatum to the new Irfaan Ali led People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) administration in a letter dated August 6 addressed to the Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Health Minister Frank Anthony.
The APNU+AFC had initially claimed that the building was being rented from Rambarran but later issued a notice of compulsory acquisition for the property. Rambarran however, claimed that no official agreement was made between him and the APNU+AFC regarding the sale of his property and as such, he demanded that the new administration fork out some $52 million in rent within 14 days of the letter being sent.
If defaulted, Rambarran threatened to terminate the existing tenancy and take steps to recover possession of his property. That deadline was Thursday.
The Vice President however, made it clear that the businessman will not receive a cent until an investigation is completed. He said “Well, I must say that he’ll have a long wait, have a long wait because we believe that a lot of irregularities, illegalities took place through this deal, and that will be fully investigated.”
Rambarran told the new PPP/C administration in his letter that he was approached
by representatives of the Public Health to lease his property solely for the purpose of establishing a COVID-19 Sanatorium. In the letter, he explained the health officials underscored the urgent need for the facility to accommodate the expected increase of COVID-19 cases as estimated by PAHO/WHO.The hotel was then visited by a number of officials representing the State including doctors, engineers, officers of the Guyana Defence Force, staff of the Ministry of Public Health and members of the COVID-19 taskforce.
Subsequent to this, the letter noted that a tenancy agreement was reached with the Ministry of Health for one year at a monthly rental of $13 million since, at the time, the government did anticipate that they would need the property beyond one year. According to the letter, a lease was drafted following approval by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and other officials. However, the letter outlined that after it was submitted to the Ministry of the Presidency it was never executed —no rent whatsoever, was ever paid to Rambarran.
According to the letter too, the Government later issued a notice of compulsory acquisition of the property, without entering into any negotiation of purchase with the businessman. It was because of this fact that Rambarran claimed that the notice was “unconstitutional and ineffective in law.”
The entire Ocean View Hospital deal received major media attention after important aspects of the agreement were shrouded in secrecy. In fact, the only piece of information originally made public by the then
Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence was a $1 billion price tage for rehabilitation.
But even this cost varied. It was stated that the cost for rehabilitation would have been $1 billion but when the cost was revealed at the commissioning ceremony, a $600 million variance was added with no explanation given to account for it. The Minister had also revealed that it would cost “three times” the construction cost to equip the hospital with the necessary medical supplies needed.
The project was termed an “absolute disaster” by the new Health Minister, Frank Anthony who revealed that the building lacked the basic amenities for a COVID-19 facility.
Jagdeo also commented on this, stating that “they spent huge sums of money on this hospital which as you are aware by now is not equipped to deal with the pandemic and therefore will have to either undergo major renovation or equipping and retrofitting, and even that may not work.”
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