The Private Sector Commission (PSC) last night expressed concern about government’s “deliberate and repeated” refusal to pay Dipcon monies owed by the State.
“The rule of law must prevail if business is to be conducted in our country with confidence in the government’s respect for the judiciary and a separation of powers between the Executive and courts,” the PSC said in a statement.
“The private sector must, at all times, be confident that the principles of sanctity of contracts reinforced by the independence of the Courts will be honoured by the State.”
President David Granger on Monday issued an executive order, under Article 188 of the Constitution, to prevent Finance Minister Winston Jordan from being jailed for failing to honour court orders to pay Dipcon.
According to the PSC, “the intervention of the President to protect the Minister of Finance from the law rather than to encourage him to pay the amount owed and thereby follow the rule of law, sends a message that businesses and private investors can be wronged with impunity.”
The Commission pointed out that in order for both foreign and domestic investors to do business in the country with any degree of confidence, there must be confident that the rule of law, administered by an independent judiciary, will, at all times, be upheld and respected by the government of the day.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has also criticised the move, saying the President’s actions can send a signal that the terms of private contracts with the State can be broken.
Jagdeo also pointed to the use of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), which sent Dipcon a letter ordering it to pay $527 Million in owed taxes. According to the former President, this all sends a bad signal to investors and damage an already struggling investment climate.
Last month, High Court Judge Justice Sewnarine-Beharry had ordered Minister Jordan to pay Dipcon the US$2.2 Million award or face jail time.
The Trinidad-based construction company had taken the Finance Minister to Court for failing to honour the payment of millions of dollars, which was awarded to Dipcon by Justice Rishi Persaud in 2015.
After Dipcon took the Government to Court back in 2009 to recover monies owed for road works done, Justice Rishi Persaud had ordered Government to pay the company US$665,032.17 as payment for the works done, along with US$1,563,368.50 for costs it incurred for those works, together with interest on both amounts, at a rate of six per cent annum from February 10, 2009, to October 21, 2015, and thereafter at the rate of four per cent per annum until fully paid.
However, since none of the payments they were owed were made, Dipcon had successfully approached the High Courts for an administrative order to compel the minister to make the payment.
On Friday, Justices Diana Insanally and Simone Morris-Ramlall threw out Jordan’s application, filed by Attorney General Basil Williams, for a stay of the court order. In their judgement, the judges expressed their view that his application had no merit.