Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is charging there is massive and entrenched corruption by the incumbent Administration with regard to the Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown property it has decided to rent from Larry Singh’s Linden Holding Inc.
Jagdeo made the pronouncements on Wednesday when he met with members of the local media corps for a press briefing at his Party’s Freedom House Headquarters.
The former President told media operatives that there was more than met the eye with the G$12.5 million monthly rental agreement for the property to be used for the storage of Government’s drugs and medical supplies.
Linden Holding Inc has its registered office in Middle Street, Georgetown, in the same building that housed the Sidewalk Café which is owned by Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes and its bond is located at Lot 69 Sussex Street.
Jagdeo told media operatives that the entire sordid affair went beyond Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, who is essentially now being thrown under the proverbial bus.
Jagdeo was adamant that Minister Norton was in fact directed to do what he did, but nonetheless he would not escape, since the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was committed to having him placed before the Committee of Privileges, since he lied to the members of the National Assembly.
The Opposition Leader was also highly critical of the Cabinet Sub-Committee that has been set up by Head of State David Granger to investigate the sordid affair.
According to the former President now Opposition Leader, the PPP/C was open to giving the Committee a fair chance to see what it would have come up with following its investigations, but the Party was now of the view that it was merely a “cover-up committee”.
That Committee was chaired by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.
Jagdeo in giving his initial assessment of the findings of the report of the Committee queried when the Natural Resources Minister—an Attorney-at-Law – become a specialist in assessing the standards required by the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation (WHO/PAHO) for the storage of drugs and medical supplies.
The Opposition Leader has lamented the public position adumbrated by Trotman that the building did in fact meet WHO/PAHO standards and pointed out that at the time of Minister Trotman’s visit, the facility had still been under renovation.
He pointed to the fact that the ‘cover-up committee’ said in its recommendations that Larry Singh’s company should be given a year to rake in G$150 million if Government were to terminate the contract.
This, he said, results in a situation where Larry Singh’s Company bought a building for G$25 million and would be paid G$150 million per year in rental and the drugs would not be stored properly.
“This is a cover up by the Cabinet, huge cover-up by the Cabinet; they are all involved…,” said Jagdeo.
He threw out a challenge to the media representatives present, saying, find out about the people who have been frequenting this place in Middle Street and you will find how deep the connections run into the Cabinet”.
The Opposition Leader said the contract that has been entered into between the Public Health Ministry and Linden Holding Inc, “is not about Norton…Norton was directed to initiate that”.
Jagdeo observed too that Government spokespersons to date were yet to tell the nation how Dr Norton knew about the availability of the Sussex Street bond.
“They haven’t answered that question, but Norton was directed by members of that Cabinet to negotiate this deal with this individual (Larry Singh) and they all knew about it when it went to the Parliament,” the Opposition Leader claimed.
He recalled that Prime Minister Nagamootoo, “said to me it was fully debated at the Cabinet”.
On the matter of the promised public apology on the part of the Public Health Minister, Jagdeo asked “if this Cabinet debated that issue, why must Norton apologise”?
The former President was referring to another of the recommendations coming out of the Cabinet Sub-Committee that Minister Norton make a public apology over the misleading statements he made to members of the National Assembly.
The Opposition Leader was firm in his supposition that “they are throwing Norton under the bus”.
The brouhaha came to the fore when the National Assembly scrutinised the advances made from the Contingency Fund to meet unforeseen expenditures and found that G$25 million in a security deposit had been fronted to Linden Holding Inc, in addition to G$12.5 million for the first month’s rental.
It was later discovered that not only did Linden Holding Inc not have any experience in the storage of drugs but that the decision was deliberately taken by Cabinet to sideline the NEW GPC INC which incidentally had been accommodating the storage of drugs and medical supplies purchased from it by Government – free of cost.
NEW GPC had taken a decision to request a rental fee from Government since it ended its arrangement with the local drugs manufacturer.
NEW GPC’s asking price was calculated to be G$237 per square foot in a state-of-the-art facility while Government opted instead to pay in excess of G$1200 per square foot for a substandard facility under questionable circumstances.