Colvin Heath-London has been relieved of his duties, with immediate effect, as Chief Executive Officer of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) following a series of illegalities and failures, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government announced.
Heath-London served as head of the Special Purpose Unit as well. The SPU was convened by the David Granger-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) 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 PPP/C Government 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. It noted that the shortcomings had a detrimental impact on Government and NICIL’s business.
Identifying some of 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’s counsel. It noted that the counsel’s 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 also 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.
He 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 failed to facilitate and procure the auditing of SPU’s accounts by the Auditor General.
The now terminated CEO 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 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 statement noted.
On several occasions, Former Finance Minister Winston Jordan was with Heath-London at the sod turning and launching of several of the proposed projects which gain NICIL’s lands which failed to meet the legal and transparent requirement according to the laws of Guyana.
Just Monday, Attorney General Anil Nandlall revealed that more than 50 acres of land at Peters Hall were signed away without the proper leases intact.
The State Lands Act of Guyana stipulates that when State lands are leased, the lease must state that the lessee must not part with possession without the consent of the landlord (the State) or shall not assign the interest in the lease without the consent of the landlord. If the lessee acts in contravention of that clause, then the State reserves the right to step in and repossess the lands.
However, in the case of the three agreements at Peters Hall, a PNC member in drafting the lease agreements, changed that to state: “the lessee may assign, sublet, grant any licenses or otherwise part with the possession and/or purpose and/or dispose of the whole or any part of the demised property or any building or other erection at any time standing thereon or any right or privilege in relations thereto conferred by this agreement.”
Nandlall noted that the clause itself acts in contravention of the law. The contracts were reportedly drafted by an attorney who is also a member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).
Just this weekend Guyana Times reported that massive tracts of prime State land which were leased at bargain prices under the former Government will soon be the subject of criminal investigations, as the current Government undertakes a review of several shady land deals in the proximity of the Ogle/Diamond bypass road. The review of the legality of these transactions is being undertaken by the Attorney General Chambers.
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.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government has adopted a no-nonsense policy on land that was allocated under the former APNU/AFC Government during the time when they were in caretaker status – having been defeated by a No-Confidence Motion – and not authorised to conduct such large transactions.