Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, is contending that the various State entities under his ministry are all facing financial troubles and should not have expended any monies to buy gifts for anyone.
Indar made this remark during his contribution to the 2021 budget debates. It was in reference to the recent controversy surrounding former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and his junior, Annette Ferguson, both of whom accepted millions of dollars in gifts from State agencies.
Patterson had defended accepting the gifts, contending that the practice was normal.
But Indar posited that the APNU/AFC Opposition Members are being “untruthful”, as he argued that financially-troubled State agencies should not be buying gifts for anyone.
He highlighted that officials from the former government would have accepted gifts from a number of State agencies including the Transport and Harbour Department (T&HD), which currently has a liability of over $400M that is owed to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
“It means, Mr. Speaker, that the workers of Transport and Harbours, money was deducted from their pay but was not remitted on their behalf to the NIS to benefit them in their old age. Those monies that were spent for gifts is somebody’s NIS,” the Minister noted.
He added that a similar situation is at the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) Corporation, where the Span 9 – one of the two spans that open at the bridge to allow for marine traffic – is “troublesome” and for which monies are included in this budget to repair.
“But that organisation should not be spend money to give gifts to anyone under the sun,” he contended.
Moreover, the Junior Public Works Minister went onto highlight the situation at the Maritime Administration (MARAD).
“[They say] they followed the procurement laws but let them tell me about MARAD, where we just found out in an audit that $657 million was paid to contractor Courtney Benn and one of their subsidiaries and zero was given in return. No repairs were done and no spares was given. So, you cannot say you follow procurement laws when these massive breaches were done,” Minister Indar argued.
He further posited that that contract sum could have been used to 65,700 children their $10,000 Cash Grant – an initiative of the previous PPP/C Administration that was scrapped by the Coalition. The current government has since reinstated the programme and increased the grant to $15,000 per child.
Moreover, the Minister within the Public Works Minister further outlined that Budget 2021 is a template for development with some $32.9 billion alone for capital works under his subject ministry. This, he noted is in keeping with President Ali’s promise and the party’s manifesto promise to build Guyana.