Sep 25, 2020 News
Former Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix, has revealed even more details regarding the birth certificate transaction between the former APNU+AFC administration and their party executive, Lawrence ‘Larry’ London.
Felix, who was at the time defending his party’s decision to retain their own executive for a job, stated that London’s company, Universal Procurement Services Incorporated, would have printed over 500,000 birth certificates for the government from 2016 to 2020—raking in millions of profits.
The former minister even went on to state that it was the current PPP/C government which had begun the sole sourcing of birth certificates—in fact, carrying it on for15 years.
It is with this that Felix stated that when APNU+AFC assumed office in 2015, they had only taken a decision to continue that practice.
Felix’s statement followed after the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira, during her budget presentation to the Committee of Supply, had stated that the coalition had awarded $30M to a barely “discernible” Florida- registered company.
This is done for the procurement of 20,000 birth certificates between the periods of 2019-2020.
Later investigations would show that not only did London sign off on the contracts, but that he headed the inactive company, Universal Procurement Services Incorporated.
Notably, the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, had requested the Auditor General to conduct an “immediate” probe into the scandal, in which he requested that reasons be provided regarding why the services of the conventional publisher of these documents were not sought, among other concerns.
In response to this, Felix wrote that two local printers had shown their interest in producing the birth certificates, but disqualified themselves since they could not provide quality print paper and reliable security features.
He further noted that at that time, forged birth certificates were rampant and foreign embassies in Georgetown had raised their concerns about the quality of the country’s birth certificates, necessitating the need to upgrade the document.
“This apparent weakness in our civil registry needed to be addressed,” Felix wrote, “and the Department of Citizenship reached out to several persons to provide guidance on correcting our shortcomings. This included Canadian Bank Note but that company was principally in the passport business. It was not until 2018 while on a visit to the company that they showed an inclination to enter birth certificate production.”
According to the former minister, these actions “paved the way for the entry of Mr. Lawrence London, who presented to the Department samples of high quality paper and several security features to protect the document.”
It is concerning, however, how the Citizenship Department’s 2018 visit to the Canadian Bank Note “paved the way” for London to print the birth certificates, seeing that he had already been providing the documents two years prior to their visit.
Nonetheless, Felix went on to state that after several engagements with London, the department agreed to restrict the security features to six as he claimed that additional features would increase the cost of production.
“Our first order was received in 2016. I am confident that each of our orders received the requisite approval from the National Procurement and Tender Board (NPTAB),” he added.
Felix sought to point that there is a mistaken belief held by persons that the birth rate should dictate or serve as a guide to order birth certificates each year. He indicated that there are several considerations that militate against taking such a position.
These include registration of births where parents leave the health facilities with a birth certificate; registration of births where parents leave the health institution without a birth certificate but subsequently collects the document; requests through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from our Embassies/High Commissions; requests from Foreign Embassies/High Commissions in Guyana; reopening of schools places a heavy demand on the GRO for birth certificates; the election cycles – both Local Government and General and Regional Elections placed an even greater demand by citizens for birth certificates; as well as government outreaches to communities throughout the country.
It should be noted that in August of this year, Kaieteur News had reported that London, once listed as co-owner of the controversial Homestretch Development Incorporated, the company behind the Durban Project, was given a mystery job by the previous Granger administration.
Operating under the designation listed as ‘Director of Public Parks’, London was in receipt of a net salary of $500,000 monthly, along with additional perks being footed by the State, including home security services, a personal driver and car, as well as duty free allowances and a 22 ½ % gratuity twice yearly, despite the fact that London would rarely reside in Guyana.
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