Housing Minister admits husband received 3 contracts
…GTUC calls for conflict of interest to be investigated
In a bid to address concerns regarding her husband receiving contracts from the Housing Ministry, subject Minister Valerie Adams-Yearwood has confirmed that her husband had in fact received three contracts.
According to the minister in her statement on the issue, the contracts were all awarded in 2017. She admitted that one of these contracts is still outstanding, but is expected to be concluded in two weeks’ time.
“He was contracted by the Central Housing and Planning Authority to construct one duplex unit, two single elevated units, and two units for the differently-abled. This represents three contracts, all signed in 2017, and with the final one signed in December 2017. Prior to that, he was contracted (in) early 2017 along with another contractor to do rehabilitation works at the Linden office”, the minister’s statement has said.
The minister insists that her husband, Godfrey Yearwood, was subjected to the same rules and regulations as other bidders; there was no exemption.
She also took care to note that the contracts had been awarded by the CH&PA Board of Directors, of which she is not a member.
She, moreover, denied presiding over any contracts, though she did admit to being present during contract signings.
“I was present at the symbolic signing ceremony for contractors that had been pre-qualified to build houses for the Housing Expo. Two of the contractors signed their documents that day”, she disclosed.
The minister also claimed that Desmond Murphy, the sub-contractor whose complaints about non-payment from Yearwood had sparked the revelations in the first place, was not paid because of substandard work. According to the minister, her husband fixed the defects with his own money.
Meanwhile, Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes has also issued a release hitting back at suggestions that she was violating the Integrity Act. Her company, Videomega Productions, was recently the recipient of a contract from the Department of Energy.
After that story broke, the minister insisted she was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.
“I have no relationship with the decision-making processes of the DoE. The decision was entirely that of the Department of Energy. I have never utilised any influence, official or otherwise, to influence the furtherance of any contract with VideoMega Productions Ltd,” Hughes has insisted.
She noted that these are the conflicts of interest to which the Integrity Act speaks, and insisted that she has not breached any of them.
But with reports circulating of potential conflicts of interest involving the business dealings and even marital affairs of ministers of Government, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) is not about to take the ministers at their word. In a statement sent out by the body on Monday, there has been a call for allegations of conflict of interest to be investigated thoroughly. And the GTUC wants the Integrity Commission to do so.
However, the GTUC has expressed concern about the capacity of that Commission to do investigations.
According to the GTUC, the commission has, for a while, been calling for the resources and investigators it needs to carry out its mandate.
GTUC has noted that, having committed to fully staff the Commission last year, Government must make good on its promise. Noting that institutions cannot be put in place with no teeth to function, GTUC has called for a drive to fully staff not only the Integrity Commission, but other investigative arms of the state.
“This Coalition rode into office not only on its professed intolerance for corruption, but amidst society’s concern. Society does not expect corruption to be removed overnight, but expects the beginning of corrective measures to bring the society to a state of accountability. To do otherwise will cause disillusionment in the political process, deterring citizens from participating, thereby undermining an important element in democracy… allegations of conflict of interest should be checked, and where exist, reined in forthwith…
“We need a society where rules, laws and conventions hold sway and subject all,” GTUC has said.