Over $264M spent on rent for controversial Sussex St bond- Health Minister

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Government has paid a total of $264,500,000 [Two Hundred Sixty Four Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars] from July 2016 to March 2018  for the rental of the controversial Linden Holdings Inc.’s Sussex Street Property – known as the “Sussex Street Pharmaceutical Bond.”

The Sussex Street bond: During the debate on the 2017 Budget in December 2016, a parliamentary delegation accompanied by the media visited the Bond and found condoms, lubricants and some unused refrigerators, but no pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

This is according to Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence on Monday, following questions raised by Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall regarding the total sums paid to Linden Holding Inc. as rent for the property situated at lot 29 Sussex Street, Albouystown, as of March 31, 2018.

Former Minister of Health, Dr George Norton and current Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence

Moreover, in her written response to Nandlall’s queries as to what action has been taken with regards to implementing the recommendations that the contract be renegotiated to obtain a lower rate of rental, and, if not possible, that the Lease Agreement be terminated, Lawrence said “the actions taken were a Notice of Quit dated October 31, 2016 by Permanent Secretary, Trevor Thomas. A reminder dated October 3, 2017 was sent by Permanent Secretary Ms Collette Adams.”

The Sussex street bond was rented to Linden Holdings Inc, -owned by Larry Singh, following the termination of the prequalification arrangement with New GPC in 2015, under the instructions of then Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton.

After Government terminated the arrangement under which NEW GPC had provided storage free of cost for more than a decade, the company submitted an invoice for the continued use of its facility. 

NEW GPC submitted an invoice for the rental of its facilities at a cost of $237 per square feet but Government instead opted to pay Linden Holding Inc, five times as much, with $1,250 per square feet.

Moreover, a $25 Million deposit was paid to Linden Holding Inc, in order to rent the bond in question to house state pharmaceuticals.

There was no tender for the project and soon after it was uncovered in the national assembly that Government was paying, there was a major cabinet reshuffle- resulting in Lawrence taking Norton’s place and he being shipped off to head the Social Cohesion Ministry.

Amidst public outcry, government had assured that the arrangement would come to an end by 2017 year end.

Last year, while being questioned about budgetary allocations to her Ministry, Public Health Minister Lawrence disclosed that the rental would continue for at least two months into 2018.

Following that, Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo told media operatives that questions still remained as to the possible link between the contractor and the state.

Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

 “So we’re in February now. We are awaiting the termination of this contract. A contract in which, there was no tender and we are paying nearly US$70,000 a month for a bottom house. That’s what we are paying…over $14M, somewhere around that level and that is one contract, trust me that the PPP will definitely look into this…because all the questions raised by the media has been unanswered so far. How did this person know of this opportunity when it wasn’t publicly advertised and why is it that this Government hangs on to this contract, that is so bad, for so many years?,” he had asked.

Meanwhile, on April 12, 2018, Government instituted legal proceedings against former Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh and NICIL Head Winston Brassington for what it says is “misconduct in public office: contrary to common law” as it pertains to the sale of three plots of state land.

Opposition Member of Parliament and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

In return, Nandlall on behalf of PPP MPs, took to the court to have current Minister of Public Health, Lawrence and former Minister of Public Health, Norton charged for the same offence.

The charges against the duo were with regards to the sole sourcing of drugs and other pharmaceuticals for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation from privately owned, Ansa McAll Trading Limited and the rental of the house in Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown to be utilized as a drug bond, respectively.

However, Attorney General, Basil Williams had written the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to have the charges laid by Nandlall reviewed, calling for its discontinuation.

The DPP subsequently released a statement discontinuing the charges against Norton and Lawrence.

Moreover, it was explained that “these charges concern a grave issue under the criminal law in relation to two serving Ministers. In the interest of good governance in the State of Guyana such allegations ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought.”

As such, Nandlall has moved to the High Court to challenge the DPP’s decision.

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