In the space of one day, Kaieteur News had reported in June that the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) had transferred some 130 acres of prime lands to private investors. However, only two have been fully paid for. This was revealed by Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, during his maiden presentation to the National Assembly, yesterday.
According to the Minister, of the 23 transactions of prime, commercial lands in the villages of Ogle, Earl’s Court and Le Ressouvenir on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), nine have been vested, with only two paid in full. With the total acreage being 29.96, these two plots of lands are valued at G$614,438,000, Indar said during day one of the budget debates.
Minister Indar went on to say that the total acreage and value of the nine that were vested is 130.556 acres and valued at G$3,355,318,000, while the total sum collected in respect of the nine vested is GY$614,438,000.
The lands were handed over to Supergraphics (5.058 acres); GUYOIL (1.500 acres); the Residences at Earl’s Court Incorporated (10.281 acres); Navigant Builders Incorporated (30.000 acres); Premier Sales and Services Incorporated (5.015 acres); Trinuyana Investments Incorporated (19.678 acres), Caribbean Marketing Enterprise Incorporated (21.096 acres), American Marine Services Incorporated (20.000 acres) and Cardiology Incorporated (8.000 acres).
One of these companies, Navigant Builders, was gifted 30 acres of land by NICIL, despite refusing the government’s offer on three separate occasions. In fact, on June 23, the housing developer had emphatically stated that, “Due to an uncertain business environment, Windsor Estates/Navigant Builders, a US-based real estate developer will hereby be postponing its plans for the proposed Ogle project.”
Notably, this was verbatim to a statement initially published on March 6 from the developer expressing concerns surrounding the then unconcluded March 2, General and Regional Elections. On July 2, the company issued another statement disclosing that there had been a Gazetted Order indicating a transfer of 30 acres of prime lands to Navigant Builders in the Ogle/Sparendaam vicinity dated June 11 and published in the official gazette on June 30.
What is alarming is that this agency, which is a subsidiary of Windsor Estates, had no prior knowledge of receiving the land, even with no payments to date.
With these concerning details, anti-corruption advocate, Christopher Ram, is of the view that NICIL should be investigated for its conduct and its forceful bid to sell off acres of prime lands to private developers despite not collecting full payments.
“The conduct of NICIL,” the Attorney-at-Law told Kaieteur News on July 7, “raises serious questions of legality and legitimacy which warrant not an explanation but investigation and probably prosecution.”
Ram said that the manner in which these deals are done, run the risk of Guyana losing “unquantifiable sums of money” which the country cannot afford.
“The Directors of NICIL,” he added, “can hardly justify their action as being in the public interest… NICIL seems like another untethered animal that appears completely oblivious to the lame duck nature of the government and the Minister it serves.”
NICIL had sought to absolve the former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, of blame for the deals, positing that he had no involvement in the selection of the investors, “is not a member of the NICIL Board nor is he involved in the day to day business of NICIL or the SPU.”
However, Jordan’s signature appears on all of the vesting orders. Of the former Minister, Ram had said, “The troubling thing is not only that the subject Minister is doing nothing to prevent such behaviour but that the actions may actually have the support of and may have been directed by that Minister.”
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