… lashes out at critics
While utilizing his time in the budget debates earlier today, Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnarine finally broke his silence regarding his role as a Director in the Homestretch Development Inc (HDI), the private company that overlooked the development of the Durban Park Jubilee Park, while lashing out at critics for suggesting that he was involved in malfeasance.
On the fourth day of the Budget 2017 Debates, the Minister asserted that he will not sit by and suffer in silence “if I am now accused by anyone of such acts,” especially since in his over 40 years of being involved in Politics, he has never done so.
He explained to the House that the decision to hand over the development of the Durban Park to the Minister of Public Infrastructure (MPI) was taken since the private donations had been utilized. He noted too that the records of all that had been donated was handed over to the MPI.
Roopnarine posited that he was requested by the media to refrain from hiding behind the explanations of the President of Guyana, and as such he was seeking to provide thorough clarifications.
He offered a chronology of events which dated back to June, when the decision was made to establish a National Commemoration Committee (NCC) because Government had decided to commemorate Guyana’s Jubilee Anniversary, highlighting that he was appointed to Chair the proceedings.
According to him, the Opposition was invited to the Commission, but they had refused to accept or participate in any way.
He noted that the decision was taken to develop the Durban Park site since the usual venue for hosting the National Anniversary activities proved to be inadequate. He added that the National Park would have called for significant refurbishing in order to be able to accommodate the thousands that were envisioned to participate
Roopnarine disclosed that the decision to proceed with the Durban Park Development Project was approved by Cabinet and the works had begun in the last quarter of 2015.
However, in January of 2016, Roopnarine said that he was requested to sit on the board of the HDI and informed that the team, with no budget, was given the responsibility of preparing the location.
The Education Minister went on to clarify that in April of this year, the Chief Executive Officer of HDI, Retired Colonel Larry London, told the Government that the donations and credit arrangements that had been received as “donations” from private citizens had been exhausted . This was the reason that the project was handed over to the MPI, according to Roopnarine.
However, Roopnarine’s explanation had significantly contradicted that of Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, who just a few weeks ago stated in the House that because HDI was a private company, its records and such could not be disclosed.
It was just recently that accounting firm Ram & McRae called for a full inquiry into all aspects of the D’Urban Park Project, including the Government’s role and that of Homestretch Development Inc and its Directors.
Ram & McRae, had posited that contrary to what President Granger had said, in defence of Dr Roopnarine, that HDI was a special purpose company, the company was not.
It was observed that, among the types of business it was formed to carry out included the “import and export generally to and from Guyana” and the “business of Real Estate.”
This is confirmed in the Articles of Incorporation which stated that there is no restriction on the business the company could carry on.
As such, Ram & McRae had determined, “That is not a special purpose company, if ever there was one.”
It was observed too that President Granger was also reported as stating that the project was delayed because of the presentation of the Budget.
“In fact, when the President spoke his government had presented two budgets – one in August 2015 before sand filling of the site had taken place – and the other in January 2016…HDI was incorporated in January 22, 2016, one week before the presentation of the 2016 budget in which $350 million was approved for the Jubilee Celebrations” the accounting firm highlighted.
In addition to the $350 million voted in the 2016 Budget, a further sum of $406,758,312 was spent out of the Contingencies Fund for the “completion of D’Urban Park Development Project to facilitate the holding of Guyana’s 50th Independence anniversary celebrations.
Ram & MaRae pointed out too that there would have also been moneys received from the celebrations all of which need to be accounted for: “In so far as the moneys were public moneys they ought to have been paid into the Consolidated Fund.”