Controversial Larry London received multi-million contract from APNU/AFC to print birth certificates
– birth certificate contracts yanked from usual local printers
It has been revealed that businessman Larry London, who has long been closely linked to the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, is behind a company that received a multi-million dollar Government contract to print birth certificates.
The bombshell revelation was made on Monday, the first day of the examination of the budget estimates for what was previously the Ministry of Citizenship headed by Winston Felix. Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira was asked about a $29.1 million allocation under Line item 6224, page 46 of the 2020 estimates.
Under questioning from Member of Parliament (MP) Sanjeev Datadin, Teixeira revealed that the amount relates to a Florida-based company called Universal Procurement Services. According to Teixeira, the company received a contract to print thousands of birth certificates for the Ministry of Citizenship.
“(The money) covers the purchase of birth certificates. Some bought in May 2019 and paid for in 2020. And some purchased in 2020 and paid for. These birth certificates were purchased from a company in Florida and the value of this contract is probably US$150,000 in total,” she explained.
Describing the contract as unusual and strange, Teixeira went on to reveal that controversial businessman Larry London is the principal of the company. Teixeira, a former Home Affairs Minister with oversight for citizenship, noted that previously it was the local printers who received such contracts.
“The 2019 purchases and the 2020 purchases for birth certificates are $23 million for this year. They were purchased by Universal Procurement Services, a company in Miramar, Florida. However, the contract has been signed by Mr Larry London. So, I’m not sure what is the proficiency of this company, nor the due diligence on this company.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of it, because I know that, having been a Minister of Home Affairs myself and I know my colleagues who were there subsequently, birth certificates used to be published in Guyana with the local printers, with safety and security watermarks put in. So, I find this rather unusual and strange,” she said.
The company itself, Universal Procurement Services, was registered with Florida’s Division of Corporations. London is listed as one of three directors. However, a perusal of the database shows that the company’s status is, in fact, inactive.
London has been the subject of numerous articles, dating as far back as his involvement in the controversial D’Urban Park project. Lambasted on all sides for its lack of transparency and its structural defects, D’Urban Park was built through the coordination of Homestretch Development Incorporated (HDI) – a company co-owned by London.
Public funds for the project, which cost a total of over $1 billion, was scraped from multiple avenues by the former APNU/AFC Government and handed over to HDI. Yet to this day, the former APNU/AFC Government has been unable to account for how the monies were spent despite the best efforts of the Audit Office of Guyana to reconcile the payments over the past few years.
For instance, Auditor General Deodat Sharma had written in his latest audit report that in 2015, $36.5 million was withdrawn from the Lotto Fund to fund D’Urban Park. According to the Auditor General, however, no payment vouchers were presented to his auditors for this transaction.
In 2016, a further $60.3 million was pulled from the money allocated for infrastructural development. In addition, $118.1 million was pulled from the money allocated to the Ministry for the maintenance of roads.
And in 2017, $500 million was paid to HDI from the funds budgeted to the Public Infrastructure Ministry for infrastructural development. A further $28.2 million came from the money for the maintenance of other infrastructure.
The Government also withdrew two sets of monies totalling over $400 million from the Contingency Fund, which is supposed to only be used for emergency purposes. However, over $70 million in payment vouchers were not presented to the Audit Office.
In addition to public funds, it is understood that private donations were also received by HDI to carry out the project. All this happened with Working People’s Alliance (WPA) stalwart Dr Rupert Roopnaraine sitting as a Director on HDI.
Most recently, London was revealed to have been appointed by the former Government as Director of Parks, a position APNU/AFC created especially for him that came with a salary of $500,000 plus benefits that included gratuity, security at his home, light, phone and internet bills paid, as well as duty-free allowance.