Former NICIL Head arrested over land giveaways

Former Chief Executive Officer of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Colvin Heath-London has been arrested for questioning in relation to land giveaways which occurred under the former APNU/AFC coalition.

Former CEO of NICIL Colvin Heath-London

Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum confirmed to Guyana Times on Friday that the former NICIL boss had been detained but he did not provide any other information.
Heath-London was recently relieved of his duties in light of a series of illegalities and failures, the PPP/C Administration had announced in a statement.
Heath-London had also served as Head of the Special Purpose Unit which was convened by the David Granger-led Government after it closed four sugar estates. The Unit was responsible for the privatisation and divestment of identified assets of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
The Government had said that a review of NICIL’s and SPU’s operations revealed illegalities and serious failures by Heath-London in the performance of his duties.
Identifying some of Heath-London’s shortcomings, the Government outlined that various leases for NICIL properties located in Peters Hall, East Bank Demerara (EBD), were signed without public tender, valuations, Board approval, Cabinet approval, and review and approval by NICIL. It noted that the approval was to ensure that the leases contained the standard and customary provisions relating to termination and non-assignment and other protections to NICIL.
In a statement, Government identified that Heath-London issued approximately 14 agreements of sale and leases for NICIL lands located at Ogle, East Coast Demerara (ECD), and the subsequent vesting of seven tracts of lands without ensuring that full payment was received for those lands in accordance with the terms of the relevant agreements. He is also said to have issued the agreements and vesting orders without ensuring that the vesting orders issued were drafted by approved NICIL counsel or contained the usual and customary language sufficient to protect NICIL’s interests.
Additionally, the former NICIL Head is accused of procuring the execution and gazetting the vesting orders without first ensuring that payments were made in accordance with the terms of the various agreements executed by the parties. Heath-London reportedly failed to facilitate and procure the auditing of SPU’s accounts by the Auditor General.
The now terminated CEO also reportedly failed to facilitate and procure the necessary NICIL account reconciliations in order to allow the Auditor General to audit NICIL’s accounts from 2014 to 2019.
The Government had also noted that Heath-London’s transgressions constitute serious misconduct and dereliction of duty generally. He not only breached applicable laws and violated policies established by the Government and NICIL, but caused NICIL and the Government to lose millions of dollars.
“His actions also amount to a breach of the fiduciary duties and duty of care owed to NICIL imposed by the relevant provisions of the Companies Act 1991 and generally, warranting his immediate termination,” the Government-issued statement noted.
The Government had announced that an investigation would have been launched into the massive tracts of prime State land which were leased at bargain prices under the former Government.
Notably, the lands given away are in close proximity to the proposed site for the Ogle/Diamond bypass road.
The Ogle/Diamond bypass road is a massive project conceived as a way of steering traffic away from central Georgetown and the East Bank thoroughfare and easing the massive traffic jams. It is supposed to see some 26 kilometres of road constructed, linking two of the country’s main thoroughfares.
There have long been reports of a land grab in areas associated with the project. The contract for the road is likely to be awarded by this year-end. The land associated with the project that was secured since 2015 is likely to have jumped in value.