…uses CH&PA “slush fund” for GuySuCo purchase – Edghill
Government is being accused of using a “slush fund” at the level of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) to make a $2 billion GuySuCo land purchase; a practice it was once critical of while in opposition.
Brandishing the headlines in the local press, Opposition Parliamentarian Juan Edghill levelled this accusation at a press conference on Friday.
Referring to the reports, Edghill questioned why the money was coming from CH&PA, rather than the Government or the Consolidated Fund. He noted that the law requires excess sums of money from agencies to be paid into the Consolidated Fund.
“In the 10th Parliament, the PPPC was accused of holding (sums of money) in extra-budgetary agencies. And they were even referred to by (the AFC) as slush funds. One of those agencies was the Central Housing and Planning Authority.
“And the (campaign) promise was all these monies would be transferred to the Consolidated Fund,” he stated. “I am shocked that the CH&PA has $2 billion in an account. Why is this money not coming from Central Government and the Consolidated Fund?” he asked.
According to Edghill, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, Emil McGarrell, had provided assurances that sums of money in the CH&PA fund would be transferred to Central Government’s Consolidated Fund.
“If you accuse the PPPC of all of these bad things and violations, I don’t expect the God-fearing, righteous, sincere APNU/AFC Government to be doing this,” Edghill said, brandishing the headlines. “I am judging them by their own standards.
“We are happy that GuySuCo is getting money. But we are very concerned about the process that is being used to get this money to GuySuCo. This is criminal behaviour,” he posited.
During a post-Cabinet press conference on Thursday, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had revealed that the cash- strapped GuySuCo would receive the money as payment for its land. This comes after an emergency Cabinet meeting earlier this week between GuySuCo officials and the Government.
Harmon revealed that the cash was from CH&PA, with assistance from the Ministry of Finance, in order to make the purchase. It is understood that the land would then be made available to the Guyanese public, although the exact location or acreage that is being purchased is unknown.
GuySuCo, which is bogged down by billions of dollars in debt, is currently engaged in divesting its assets to get cash to pay wages, salaries and other expenses. At present, a Special Purpose Unit is in charge of this process.
That unit was first announced by Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, when he presented a Policy Paper to the National Assembly on the future of the sugar industry. It was allocated some $130 million “to provide for the establishment of a Special Purpose Unit to manage the reform of the sugar industry.”
In July, the Government had presented a supplementary request to tap the national coffers. The National Assembly has since approved the money for the unit, which will be headed by Colvin Keith-London. It is understood that he will be based at the Kingston headquarters of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Some $60 million have been approved for the company to hire an accounting firm in order to lead the divestment process, including updated valuations of the assets. GuySuCo’s properties will be transferred to the Special Purpose Unit.
GuySuCo has been tasked with identifying its own lands or assets to be divested. The Unit had allocated for its operations in 2017 some $30 million. This was set aside for the payment of salaries for the unit’s director and deputy, along with support staff.