PPP wants probe into lands given to PNC, party loyalists
…files complaint with SARA
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has moved to formally file complaints with the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) for investigations to be launched into, among other issues, cases of land handouts to the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and key stalwarts in the Party.
This move comes on the heels of SARA Director, Professor Clive Thomas, telling reporters on Friday that the Agency only investigates matters reported or referred to it by other criminal agencies or Government departments, while noting that civilians too can make reports of stolen State resources.
As such, the Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira in a letter addressed to Professor Thomas on Saturday, made complaints on three matters, which she said falls squarely in his remit.
The letter, which was also released to the media, detailed firstly the acquisition of a house and land in Bel Air Gardens, by the former Finance Minister of the PNC Government and now Second Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister of the APNU/AFC coalition, Carl Greenidge. According to the Opposition Chief Whip, the property, which was then State owned, was acquired below market value at the time and with no recourse to any procurement process.
Teixeira also asked for a probe into the Burnham family’s request for land, five acres of which was issued by the PPP/C Government at no cost to former Vice President and First Lady Viola Burnham and widow of President Forbes Burnham in D’Urban Backlands, Georgetown.
Finally, the Opposition Chief Whip calls for SARA to look into the acquisition of a huge tract of land to the PNC for their party headquarters, Congress Place, in Sophia, at no cost. She pointed out that sections of the land have been sold over the years at market value and for profit, with the most recent sale taking place after the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
“All of these cases are easily investigated as all the records are publicly available. And remember, the SARA Act provided for retroactivity, probably one of the first statutes that did so,” Teixeira said the in the letter.
She further went on to also formally lay her complaints on another series of cases regarding corruption, abuse in public office and violation of the Constitution, Procurement Act, and financial laws that were mentioned in a previous correspondence to the SARA Director, calling on him to also investigate them.
According to the Opposition Chief Whip, the most egregious of those cases relate to the sale of the country’s national patrimony in oil and natural gas well below what is observed internationally and “relatively favourable to investors by international standards,” as stated in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report prepared for Guyanese officials.
She also named the US$18 million signing bonus collected since 2016 and secretly stashed in a secret bank account at Central Bank instead of the Consolidated Fund as is constitutionally required.
During a “walk against corruption” held by SARA on Friday as part of its “Corruption is Everybody’s Business” campaign, Transparency International Guyana Inc (TIGI) – the body of international transparency watchdog Transparency International – also called for the agency to look into the oil bonus. Representatives from TIGI carried placards that read “SARA should recover signing bonus for Parliament – TIGI.”
Meanwhile, the other cases include: the purchase of $620 million in drugs and pharmaceutical supplies in 2017, without going through the procurement process and paying over 100 per cent more than the market value; the renting of a house in Sussex Street as a drugs bond for $14 million per month, the contract of which a special Cabinet review team had found was flawed but nothing has been done to review it, while over $300 million in rent has been paid thus far; and the expending of over $2 billion in taxpayers’ dollars for the construction of the D’Urban Park facilities for which no form of public procurement was undertaken and no credible records of the project has been produced to the Office of the Auditor General to date.
“Follow the trail Dr Thomas, you will find the answers and the accounts of those who benefited,” Teixeira told the SARA Director.
Moreover, the Opposition Chief Whip went on to question Professor Thomas about the complainant of allegations that $28-35 billion was lost each year in procurement fraud and another $306-313 billion per year being lost due to corruption under successive PPP/C Administrations.
“Strange to say, these are the same figures you used prior to the 2015 elections. Are you, sir, the complainant? And where is your evidence? If you declared such losses were real and then used your position in the SARU/SARA without evidence and mere mathematical speculation, then this is a case of reckless irresponsibility of enormous proportions,” Teixeira posited.
She further noted that such disinformation fed to the Guyanese electorate for several years leading up to the 2015 elections as well as friendly Governments and international organisations has been clearly exposed as a “concerted political campaign to get the PPP/C out of office”.