Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, says that former Citizenship Minister Winston Felix has side-stepped key concerns raised over the award of a multimillion-dollar contract to controversial businessman Larry London under the previous APNU/AFC Administration to print birth certificates.
The bombshell revelation of the contract was made on Monday, the first day of the examination of the budget estimates for what was previously the Ministry of Citizenship, headed by Felix.
In a letter on Thursday, Felix defended the award of the multimillion-dollar contract to London, a close ally of the Coalition, through a Florida-based company called ‘Universal Procurement Services’. He explained that the Coalition continued the decade-long practice to sole source a company to print the birth certificates.
According to the former Minister, London’s company was selected because of it ability to print high-quality paper and with several security features to protect from fraud.
However, Minister Teixeira told INews Felix deflected from the issues at hand and sought to focus entirely on the sole-sourcing. She questioned the rationale behind contracting London, who was not only closely linked to the Coalition but also at the time employed as ‘Director of Parks’ within the Department of Environment under the same Ministry of the Presidency that had oversight for the Department of Citizenship.
“So the issue is not just about single-sourcing the [contract]. Mr. Felix is trying to deflect the issue. It is the fact that here is a person employed by the government who already has already had many question marks over his activities with D’Urban Park, who was hired in the government within the same Ministry in which Mr Felix was, given the contract [to print birth certificates]” she stated.
London had come under scrutiny over this involvement in the controversial D’Urban Park project, which was built through the coordination of Homestretch Development Incorporated (HDI) – a company co-owned by the businessman.
To this end, Teixeira questioned the legitimacy of the operations that London was running in order to secure the contract for the printing of the birth certificates.
London’s company – ‘Universal Procurement Services’ was registered with Florida’s Division of Corporations but the database shows that the company is, in fact, inactive.
While in Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic had raised concerns when Felix took control of the issuance of birth certificate. In fact, Teixeira point to allegations surfacing in recent days of birth certificates being sold.
“The Citizenship Department took over the birth registration of people in our country and linked it with an internal mechanism with Larry London… So, there are many questions and [Felix] does not deal with it… Mr. Felix put out this rather long verbose statement and side-stepped completely the real issues that came out in the parliament,” the Governance Minister stated.
She went onto say “The corruption aspect of this is the inside trading that was ongoing within APNU/AFC administration of keeping everything within the ‘family’ and the level of nepotism and cronyism that existed… [Felix] side-stepped completely that this was inside trading – an inside arrangement and there was no accountability. Were all these Birth certificates received; were all these accounted for – those are issues that a full fledge investigation will have to determine.”
Only Tuesday, Auditor General Deodat Sharma told INews that his Office is likely to also do a special audit on the contract. He explained that the contract to print the birth certificates will form part of the general audit cycle for the year 2019 – the findings of which will be included in the 2019 Auditor General’s Report.