Sep 25, 2020 News
Commissioner of the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GL&SC), Trevor Benn, has come out defending his purchase of a 2016 Toyota Landcruiser Prado for $2.5M from his work place three days before the March 2 elections.
According to the Commissioner yesterday, competent persons at the Commission calculated the depreciation costs which brought the price down from an estimated purchase value of $25M to $2.5M.
In the public statement, the Commissioner insisted that the GL&SC paid $11M for the 2015 Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) which was registered in late 2016.
The statement came after the story broke in Kaieteur News in the Thursday’s edition.
He did not include the value of such vehicle if taxes and duties were to be calculated which could see final costs over $25M.
Threatening a lawsuit and calling for a retraction, the Commissioner claimed that for years, staffers of the Commission were not entitled to duty free.
He said he did not take his two duty free concessions on vehicles that he was entitled to.
Rather, the Commission’s Board of Directors, under him, drafted and unanimously adopted a vehicle policy.
“The Board was of the view that similar to other categories of public officials, the GLSC staff should have access to duty free vehicles or an alternative system that will allow them to receive the same benefits.”
The disclosures that Benn paid a mere $2.5M on a SUV bought new and only four years old, set social media ablaze yesterday with persons asking where they could get such a deal.
Benn signed the Agreement of Sale and Purchase on February 28, 2020, the same day, which the Board approved the decision to sell him and three days before the elections.
Benn was recently sent by the Office of the President, under which jurisdiction he falls, on 42 days of annual leave. He was ordered to hand over reports of his work and outstanding matters.
Below is Commissioner Benn’s full statement:
Permit me to respond to the Kaieteur News front-page article dated 24, September 2020.
In doing so I wish to reiterate the undermentioned:
Since my return to the public service in 2016, I have made myself available to the media, always a phone call away. Kaieteur has made very good use of my accessibility over the years. It is surprising, indeed disappointing therefore, that Kaieteur News would publish such a defamatory article without contacting me first.
Need I say that the practice of public officials purchasing vehicles from their place of work is age old. Most recently, the retiring head of another semi-autonomous agency benefited from a similar arrangement. Did Kaieteur News publish this information? The answer is usea clear no, and we know why.
Regarding the issue at hand, a 2015 model vehicle was purchased by the Commission at a value of just over eleven million dollars $11,000,000.
The vehicle policy of the Commission allows for a vehicle to be assigned to each manager of the Commission.
Each manager is given an option of purchasing the vehicle after three (3) years at the depreciated value.
As Commissioner I became eligible for this benefit and started the formal process to purchase the vehicle in 2019 and not a few days before March 2020 Elections as stated in the Kaieteur News article.
The depreciated value of the vehicle was calculated by the competent authorities at the Commission. This value is used across the Commission and is detailed in the Transportation Policy that was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors.
It should be noted that under the Department of Lands and Surveys, senior staff were entitled to duty free vehicles. When the Department became a Commission in 2001, the staff were transferred to the new body with all benefits.
Accordingly, staff under the new arrangement at the Commission approached the then government and requested that the terms of their employment be honoured with respect to the duty-free vehicles for staff. However, the issue remained unresolved for over fifteen years.
When I became Commissioner/CEO of the Commission, this matter was brought to my attention. I took the decision then that if my staff cannot access their entitlement, then I would not utilize the duty-free concession that was part of my contract. This resulted in me not utilizing two such concessions.
The Board of Directors at the time having been brought up to date on the situation drafted and unanimously adopted a vehicle policy. The Board was of the view that similar to other categories of public officials, the GLSC staff should have access to duty free vehicles or an alternative system that will allow them to receive the same benefits.
The vehicle policy put in place by the Board adopted some aspects of other government agencies policy. Currently, all managers of the Commission benefit from this policy.
I am calling for an immediate retraction of this story, failing which, I will have to seek legal recourse in this matter.
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