In 2016 the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) shelled out $1 Billion for land it does not know the location of.
This information was revealed before the before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday in the National Assembly.
CH&PA’s acting Finance Director Reaze Abrahim was at the time being asked by PAC Member Juan Edghill about expenditure for housing development.
He related that $1 Billion was paid to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) back in 2016.
When probed further on where this land was, Abrahim could not provide that information. Though he made a commitment to provide this information by Tuesday, this did not find favour with Edghill.
“I don’t mind getting answers tomorrow,” Edghill informed the committee. “But if I’m the finance Director of an entity and I sign off on part of a contract that paid $1 Billion, I must have an idea if the land is on the East Coast, East Bank, Essequibo, Linden, Corentyne. I must get an idea of where these lands were and are you in possession of the land.”
In response, the accounting officer related that “The land was purchased, however ownership has not transferred as yet. As such, we did not receive the list of areas according to accounting standards. Ownership has to be transferred until we receive that title or transport.”
This prompted Edghill to query whether CH&PA, at the time of the purchase, had an agreement containing details of the parcels of land. Edghill noted that this would include how many acres and price per acre.
At this point, Permanent Secretary of the Communities Ministry, Emil McGarrell, came to the defence of the financial officer, pointing out that a commitment was made to supply the information at a later date.
PAC member Nigel Dharamlall however, interjected.
“I can’t imagine that CH&PA would pay $1 Billion out for land that it does not know where the land is. Don’t you find that anomaly very stunning?” he asked McGarrell.
“The officer indicated that he does not know as the Finance Director yet as to the location, the price per acre, the quantum of acreage until such time the legal paperwork is completed. So my question still stands. Don’t you find it startling that CH&PA paid for land it cannot identify?” Dharamlall further questioned.
Dharamlall’s questions did not move the Permanent Secretary, who reiterated that the information would be provided in due course.
CH&PA also caught flak from PAC member Charandass Persaud, who chided them for the slow rate of housing development.