Apr 14, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Former Minister of Health, under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government, Dr. George Norton, yesterday made his first court appearance after he was charged in relation to the $12.5M Sussex Street drug bond rental scandal.
Norton, of Lot 130 ‘AA’ Eccles, East Bank Demerara, appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, in the company of his attorneys, Nigel Hughes and Marissa Leander.
He was not required to plead to the indictable charge which alleges that while performing duties at the Ministry of Public Health within the Government of Guyana, between June 1, 2016, and January 1, 2017, he willfully misconducted himself when he instructed Trevor Thomas, the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the said ministry to sign a contract dated July 20, 2016, between the Ministry of Public Health and Linden Holdings Inc. (LHI) for the rental of a property situated at Lot 29 Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown.
It is further alleged that Norton rented the bond for three years at $12.5M monthly. The bond was used by the Health Ministry for the storage of pharmaceuticals from July 1, 2016, and the sum of $337.5M was paid to LHI, without first obtaining approval from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
Norton’s lawyers told the court that their client is not a flight risk and made an application for bail in a reasonable amount. Chief Magistrate McLennan granted Norton bail in the sum of $400,000 with the condition attached that he lodge his passport. The matter was adjourned to April 27, 2021.
The charge was brought against Norton by the Special Organised Crime Unit (S.0.C.U), after carrying out their investigations. An audit was conducted by the Audit Office of Guyana on the rental of the Sussex Street bond and with the findings of the audit the matter was reported to S.O.C.U, and an investigation was launched.
That investigation revealed that Norton unlawfully instructed his PS to not engage NPTAB, in the tendering process or submission of justification of why a single sourced award to LHI was not in accordance to the Procurement Act.
According to the facts of the charge, Norton also further instructed his PS to prepare a Cabinet Memorandum for him to take to Cabinet for its deliberation on the matter. After the Cabinet’s debate, Norton’s PS received a copy of the Cabinet’s decision which awarded the contract to LHI for the rental of the Sussex Street bond. Norton then allegedly instructed his PS to sign the contract for the rental of the bond and his instructions were followed.
According to reports, the Agreement of Tenancy was made on July 20, 2016, between LHI and the Health Ministry. The Ministry was also subject to pay $37,500,000 which is two months’ rent and one month security deposit to LHI.
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