– Education Minister listed as a Director
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on Monday disclosed to the National Assembly that a private company – Homestretch Development Inc – was initially responsible for works on the D’Urban Park Jubilee Project, but failed to announce that a Government Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was a director of the company.
He failed to disclose too that the private company was in fact only registered on January 22, 2016 with its office listed as Lot 18 Lamaha Street, Georgetown.
These revelations were made on Tuesday, a day after Government defeated a motion in the National Assembly which had sought answers about the financing of the project.
Opposition Members of Parliament, Gail Teixeira, Irfaan Ali and Bishop Juan Edghill met with members of the media at the People’s Progressive Party’s Freedom House headquarters, where they lamented the ongoing saga involving the multi-million-dollar project that was completed for Guyana’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Farmer as a Director
According to Edghill, Minister Patterson in fact lied to the National Assembly when he provided the names of the directors of the company.
Patterson, during his presentation to the House on Monday, had listed an L. London, B. Ram, V. Wilson and G. Miller as the directors.
Patterson in his presentation failed to disclose too that his colleague, Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was in fact a director on the company – a director that could have provided the intimate details sought but opted not to speak during the debate, instead ceding to the Public Infrastructure Minister.
The other directors are Bobita Ram, a management executive; Victor Wilson, a farmer, and Gentian Miller, a teacher, while London is also listed as the company’s secretary.
Edghill is adamant that had Government been interested in supplying the nation with information Minister Roopnaraine would have made a presentation during the debate, instead of allowing Minister Patterson to make the revelations—revelations that Edghill has since challenged Patterson to rebut as not being lies to the National Assembly.
Edghill used the occasion to repeat his assertion that even members of the Government did not know what was going on with the D’Urban Park Project and that the names of the Directors had only moments before been slipped to Minister Patterson – a list that failed to take into account the Education Minister.
The Opposition Member of Parliament is adamant that the names were only slipped to Patterson, and what transpired in the House was a charade, asking why it was not revealed that Dr Roopnaraine was in fact a director of the company.
According to Edghill, “Here it is, we have a company registered in January of this year, but all of us are aware that since September last year works were ongoing on D’Urban Park.”
These works, he observed, were being undertaken by the same group of persons that had been involved in the rehabilitation of the Independence Arch and the swearing-in ceremony of the President.
The pertinent question to be asked, according to Edghill, is who was collecting money on behalf of the project before it was incorporated in January this year and under what authority?
He was adamant that monies had to have been collected prior to the incorporation of Homestretch Development Inc since there was construction work done on the site prior to January. He recalled too that the site was in fact used as part of the nation’s Republic celebrations in February of this year.
Edghill has since also sought to query what falling out, if any, caused President David Granger to take the project from under the purview of Homestretch Development Inc since it must have been Government that instigated the setting up of the private company for the project.
He questioned whether the monies solicited by Homestretch Development Inc had ran out, whether there had been a misappropriation of the funds or whether there was some breach of the agreement between the private company and Government.
Edghill also questioned whether at the time of the takeover by the Public Infrastructure Ministry whether the private company had any monies in any bank accounts and what obtained with this money.
Edghill has since argued that Government and the donors need to come clean on the funding for the project since the donations were not to a political party but to the State.
Describing the entire sordid affair as a scandal of monumental proportions, the former Minister said the donors must come clean on how the donations were solicited and by whom in Government.
Former Government Minister Irfaan Ali also used the occasion to point out that the PPP/C was exploring its options on the way forward since the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act did provide penalties.
Ali maintains that according to the laws of Guyana, all of the money collected for the project is by definition public money and should be treated as such, inclusive of its accounting, deposits and expenditure.
He queried whether there was an account for the donations, who were the signatories and which bank was used?
According to Ali, Homestretch Development Inc had to have been given the authority by way of a Government instrument in order to collect monies on behalf of the State.
The parliamentary debate, he said, has led to many more questions and has opened up many new interesting dynamics.
Responding to assertions by Public Infrastructure Minister Patterson that the Finance Minister did not breach the laws that provide for accessing State funds as was adumbrated by the Auditor General, the PPP representatives were adamant that Minister Jordan was no demigod that can determine when and how he spend taxpayers money since this was dictated by law.
The PPP representatives pointed out that Homestretch Development Inc has not accounted for a dime it collected and this was compounded by a raid on the treasury in order to complete the project.
The D’Urban Park project, according to the PPP representatives, has clearly displayed to the people of Guyana the A Partnership for National Unity-Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government “is practising corruption in some of its highest form.” (Guyana Times)