August 31, 2015

Pension funds, entire Guyanese financial community threatened

Berbice Bridge toll station

Berbice Bridge toll station

Startling revelations on Bridge toll

– shareholders never received dividends

In responding to the Government’s accusation of deploying “delaying manoeuvres” on its Berbice toll reduction campaign promise, the Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) made some startling revelations on the ramifications of a possible bankruptcy of the company on the entire Guyanese financial community in general and on pension funds in particular.

In a press release, also printed as a full-page ad in the four major newspapers, the BBCI revealed that the common shareholders of the Berbice Bridge, which was built in 2007 and opened at the end of the following year, have never received a single dollar in dividends on their $400 million investment over the past eight years.

Even if these funds had been left in bank accounts, the investors would have earned millions in compounded interest. More pertinently, if they had been otherwise invested, the returns would have been commensurately larger.

The Berbice Bridge is Guyana’s first public-private partnership (PPP) with a broad cross-section of the financial sector investing. In 2006, over G$8 billion was invested in various financing instruments, such as bonds, subordinated debt, preference shares, and common shares.

The shareholders, who are said to have “equity” in the company, are of two types: Ordinary Shareholders and Preferred Shareholders. The Ordinary Shareholders are: Secure International Limited; the National Insurance Scheme (NIS); NEW GPC INC; Queens Atlantic Investment Inc; Hand-in-Hand Mutual Fire and Demerara Contractors Limited (owned by the Demerara Distillers Limited – DDL). These are the ones who have not received any dividends.

Asked as to why they made this investment in 2006-2007, when even the model generated at the time showed that they would not be receiving any return on their investment for several years, a representative of one of the Common Shareholders replied, “At the time we were simply making a patriotic decision rather than just a business one.

We felt that the Berbice Bridge was important not only to connect the people of Berbice to the rest of the country but to also launch what we thought was an exciting new approach to building infrastructure: the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Unfortunately, we have since been castigated as the “bad guys” even though we have received no returns on our investment.”

The Preferred Shares are all owned by NIS and it has received dividends excepting in 2014, when the cash flow proved problematical and the requested toll increase as specified by the “Concession Agreement” was overtaken by political events culminating in the then Opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) passing a motion to slash the Berbice Bridge tolls by half. In that year, first-time payments on the principal to bond holders demanded out an additional $500 million.

Debt and debt instruments investors include a veritable “who’s who” of the Guyanese financial world. The New Building Society (NBS); NIS; all the major banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and some of the large corporate Guyanese entities are included.

The complete list was stated in the ad as follows: NIS; Demerara Bank; NBS; Scotiabank; Citizens Bank; Republic Bank; Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI); Hand-in-Hand Trust Corporation Inc, Trust Co Guyana Ltd, Hand-in-Hand Mutual Life Insurance Co; North American Life Insurance Company Limited (Nalico) and North American Fire and General Insurance Company Limited (Nafico).

The other surprise was the number of pension funds that also held debt instruments: those of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC); Guyana Power and Light (GPL); Guyana Sugar and Trade Enterprise; Hand in Hand Trust; Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU); DDL; NEW GPC INC; T Geddes Grant Guyana Ltd and Neal and Massey.

Like the NIS, pension funds represent a repository of monies that are supposed to take care of individuals after they retire, who have worked for many years, often decades, to “qualify” for their pensions. If these pensions are forced to absorb a catastrophic loss as a result of the BBCI being declared bankrupt, the consequences will not only be financially devastating but more damaging from a human standpoint.

One DDL pensioner, when contacted, said plaintively, “Son, wha me gon do, if me na get me pension. Me used to wuk fuh DDL at Leonora in the old days, and is me money. Me hope the guvment na guh tek way me money like de has tek way me light bill payment.”

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PPP/C presses Govt on inauguration spending

The PPP/C is requesting that the Government indicate the source of funding for the presidential inauguration events

The PPP/C is requesting that the Government indicate the source of funding for the presidential inauguration events

– submits questions to be answered after parliamentary recess

Since the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) feels it was prohibited from asking further questions on the monies spent for President David Granger’s inauguration ceremony, the Party has decided to submit a series of questions to the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs, which will come up for answer by Finance Minister Winston Jordan on his return from the parliamentary recess on October 10.

Citing a need for transparency and accountability, the PPP/C is asking that the Government provide a detailed list of all costs incurred and donations received in relation to, and in preparation for, all of the presidential inauguration events: the ceremonies at the Providence National Stadium and the Independence Arch and the cocktail reception at the Pegasus Hotel. The PPP/C is also asking for the cost for the clean-up campaigns that preceded those events.

The Opposition is requesting that the Government indicate the source of funding for these activities as well as provide a detailed list of all contributors and donors to these events and the nature and value of the contribution made (contributions received in kind and work done without charge).

Also, in relation to the donations, the Opposition is demanding that the Government submit reports detailing the process undertaken to ensure accountability for all donations, including a list of persons authorised to receive the donations and their designation in Government. In addition, the Party is asking that the Government provide copies of all official Government receipts issued for the said donations.

Furthermore, this Guyana Times understands that the PPP/C wants the Government to indicate when an audited statement of the expenditure incurred and donations received will be available and tabled in the National Assembly.

Stonewalled on the cost

Since the extravagant event which saw the National Stadium filled with exuberant partisan triumphant party supporters, the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government has stonewalled on the cost encountered, dismissing reporters whenever they made any inquiries into the matter.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon had told media operatives that most of the expenses were covered by “donations” and that the State made little contributions.

However, during the final day of the consideration of the Budget Estimates late Wednesday evening, Junior Education Minister Nicolette Henry, disclosed that some $72 million was spent on the President’s inauguration and “T-20 cricket games” (which is assumed to be the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) games).

PPP/C Member of Parliament Charles Ramson Jr, asked the Minister about a particular allocation under “subsidies and contributions to local organisations” under “Cultural Preservation and Conservation” within the Education Ministry and she disclosed that the $72.2 million was spent on the inauguration and the T20.

But, after a media report surfaced detailing that the Minister just admitted that Government spent millions of dollars for the inauguration, she then denied ever making the disclosure.

“This is inaccurate. I never said that… I would like for the purpose of the record to state very clearly that under national events, one million Guyana dollars was used for the purpose of maintenance at the Stadium, which coincided with the time we had the inauguration,” she said in an attempt to cover up her initial statements.

Preference

Meanwhile, the PPP/C, in its list of questions to the Finance Minister, is asking that a detailed explanation be provided regarding measures/arrangements to ensure that the contributors to the inauguration events do not receive any preference or advantage in future interactions with the Government and all Public Sector agencies, including procurement opportunities, business opportunities, among others.

During the campaign trail, the APNU+AFC coalition persuaded persons to vote for them by claiming that it would ensure accountability, transparency and good governance prevailed.

In another newspaper on March 26, the APNU/AFC declared that, “The coalition is committed to responsive and accountable governance. The partnership will not only respond with speeches, empty promises and meaningless rhetoric.”

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President as PM in National Assembly

Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

…“constitutional amphibian committing constitutional incest” – fmr AG

Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran are at odds over the legitimacy of the Prime Minister sitting in Parliament while performing the functions of the President.

Last week, concerns were raised and controversy loomed over Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s presence in Parliament, given that he was sworn in to act in the capacity of President, as President David Granger was out of the country at the time.

Nagamootoo had eventually left the compound and only returned when President Granger returned to Guyana.

But Ramkarran contends that the Prime Minister is entitled to sit in Parliament while performing the functions of the President, citing that there is “nothing in the Constitution to suggest that a Prime Minister loses his/her position as Prime Minister or Member of Parliament while performing the functions of President”.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran

Ramkarran, in his weekly blog “Conversation Tree”, argued that the President, though he may be incapable of discharging the functions of his office, does not lose his position as President, not even temporarily.

“The President may not always be in a position to perform his or her functions such as when he or she is absent from Guyana. In such a case, Article 96 (1) gives the President the power to authorise any elected member of the Cabinet to perform such functions of the Office of President as he or she may specify. The person who is usually appointed is the Prime Minister unless he or she is not available in which case another Cabinet member is appointed. The President may be incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office and may be unable to authorise another person by reason of physical or mental infirmity. Even in such a case the President does not lose his or her office, even temporarily,” Ramkarran wrote.

He maintained that the Constitution did not say, imply, nor can it be construed as suggesting that the President would temporarily lose or be temporarily deprived of his or her post for any reason; therefore, making it legitimate for the Prime Minister to participate in Parliament even though he is performing the functions of the President.

However, Nandlall argued that it was absurd to think that the person who stands in the shoes of the President and is empowered to assent to bills passed by the National Assembly can also sit in the National Assembly, participate in the legislative exercise of speaking and voting on a bill and then perform the presidential function of assenting to it.

“I respectfully submit that such a conversion of the Prime Minister into a constitutional amphibian committing constitutional incest can never meet the litmus test of constitutionality,” Nandlall asserted, maintaining that the Prime Minister cannot function as an elected member of the National Assembly while he is performing the functions of President.

He highlighted that the Prime Minister or anyone else in performing the functions of President was clothed with all the powers, privileges, and immunities of the President and was obliged to discharge all the functional responsibilities which devolve upon the office of President and during this period, that person becomes the constituent other half of Parliament; the National Assembly being the other part thereof, as per Article 51 of the Constitution.

“Therefore the framers of the Constitution could not and could never have contemplated a person standing in the shoes and performing the functions of President ever being part of the National Assembly,” Nandlall explained.

He reminded that a few years ago, a similar situation arose in the Judiciary where the Chief Justice was appointed to perform the functions of the Chancellor.

“The holder of the office proceeded to simultaneously perform both functions. There was a constitutional challenge to it. The High Court ruled that the office holder cannot function in both offices,” Nandlall stated.

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Man stabbed 40 times in Tiger Bay

The house in which “Red Cap” was stabbed to death

The house in which “Red Cap” was stabbed to death

– murder accused lived an abusive life

As the sun set on Saturday, pandemonium broke out in Rosemary Lane, Tiger Bay, Georgetown after a 19-year-old went berserk and hacked a father of three to death. The dead man has only been identified as 49-year-old “Red Cap” or “Rasta Man”, formerly of Bartica, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).

The now dead man was reportedly stabbed at least 40 times to his body including to his head, abdomen, hands, feet, face and back while he was asleep in his makeshift house aback Rosemary Lane. After committing the act, the suspect reportedly went home, took a shower and sat in the house with the knife in his hands.

After realising what he had done, he reportedly hid the knife under a bed and attempted to escape, but was cornered by a group of men and given a sound thrashing. By this time, Police had arrived on the scene and arrested him. He was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital where he is under guard.

Injured, Wayne Rogers

Injured, Wayne Rogers

From reports received, Christopher Stanley, the suspect, who lives a short distance away, had earlier killed a kitten on top of his mother’s roof by stamping it to death.

After some time, he came off the roof and went towards the victim’s home. He then reportedly attacked Wayne Rogers, also called “Not Nice”, dealing him one blow to the head. He then kicked open the door to the victim’s home and stabbed him.

During a visit to the area on Sunday, Guyana Times was told by Rogers that he was standing near the victim’s house when he saw the teenager walking towards him. “When I see he, he look high and he nah look like he self… so I walk up to he and ask he what happen, but he pulled out the knife and give me one cut to meh head,” Rogers stated.   After delivering that blow, the teenager kicked open the door of “Red Cap”’s house and immediately started to stab him.

“Red Cap couldn’t run… de man went over he with the knife and keep stabbing away,” the eyewitness stated.

Earlier in the day, the youngster was seen sharpening a knife, but no one knew his intentions, Rogers stated.

Another resident told the Guyana Times that the teenager was a “mental case”. She witnessed him killing the kitten and knew that he had ‘gone a far way’.

“On Friday, he went to he mother and ask for a cup of water, but he mother start cuss he and tell he that he should dead… tell he that the Police should lock he up for smoking… and all sort of things… but he end up leaving the house and went into the nasty gutter and drink some water,” the young lady stated.

Upon seeing his condition, she noted that residents advised his mother to take him to the hospital, but she paid them no heed. “She is the reason for Christopher condition… she does always cuss he and tell he all sort of foolishness… she does cuss he about he father who left she… and telling that he go turn just like he father…If she de only carry the young man to the hospital, this woulda never happen,” she added.

Several other residents in the area explained that the dead man moved into the area about a year ago and never troubled anyone or got in their way. He reportedly left Bartica and moved to Georgetown to seek employment.

Police confirmed that they have retrieved the murder weapon, a knife which was hidden under a bed in the suspect’s home. The Police also found blood stains in the bathroom. The suspect will be taken for a psychiatric evaluation as Police continue their investigations.

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Bankruptcy looms if subsidies based at present rates

Berbice Bridge toll reductions…

…Directors duty-bound to inform stakeholders

Despite the subsidies promised, the Berbice Bridge Company Inc (BBCI) indicated that while it sup-ports moves to

Toll booths at the Berbice River Bridge

Toll booths at the Berbice River Bridge

make the Berbice crossing more affordable, it could go bankrupt if Government arbi-trarily moves ahead with the toll reduction without fully honouring the legally binding agreement be-tween the Company and the Government to have tolls adjusted within specified timeframes.
Both the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/ AFC) precipitated this situation when they used their one-seat majority in the 10th Parliament to pass a motion on March 10 2015 to lower the Berbice Bridge tolls without taking into consideration that the move was an in-fringement on a legal agreement and that the Company would incur significant losses. At that time, the company had applied to the then PPPC administration for the legally specified toll adjustments.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Friday blamed the Bridge Company for the setback in the toll reductions, which Government announced would take effect on September 1.
“With September 1, fast approaching, the Government is concerned that these delaying and dilatory manoeuvres

Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Friday blamed the Bridge Company for the setback in the toll reductions

Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Friday blamed the Bridge Company for the setback in the toll reductions

appeared designed to frustrate the reduction in tolls and hold the travelling public hostage,” Jordan exclaimed.
However, in response, the Bridge Company issued a release, expressing its rejection  over the Minis-ter’s accusation.
The Company explained that its Directors are constrained by the Berbice Bridge Act and Regulations and the Concession Agreement – the legally binding agreement between the Government of Guyana and the BBCI; therefore, it cannot introduce a reduction without proper discussions with its principals  the shareholders, bond holders and trustees.

Discussions ongoing
In fact, the Company pointed out that no fixed agreement ha even been reached in relation to toll reductions as the discussions are still ongoing between Government and the BBCI Directors.
“Discussions also took place concerning the timing of subsidy payments, but BBCI team made it clear that nothing could

Despite the subsidies promised, the BBCI indicated that it could go bankrupt if Government haphazardly moves ahead with the toll reduction without honouring the legally binding agreement between the Company and the Government

Despite the subsidies promised, the BBCI indicated that it could go bankrupt if Government haphazardly moves ahead with the toll reduction without honouring the legally binding agreement between the Company and the Government

be agreed upon until the matter had been brought before its full Board and stakeholders,” the Company stated.
It also noted that Government has other obligations to honour before the Company agrees to toll reductions.
“The Government proposed a schedule of subsidies to commuters based on the existing toll struc-ture. But the Minister also accepted that “the Company would like further discussions to take place on the proposal and an extension in the concession period from 21 years to 40 years: or for the Govern-ment to give consideration to an application for an increase in toll made to the PPP/C Government on March 15, 2015.” The Minister has accepted that no agreement was reached with BCCI,” BBCI stated.
The Company also noted that, “the Government in other fora proceeded as if its proposal was au fait accompli, simply to fulfil a campaign promise on the BBCI tolls, which was made without any consultations with the BBCI.

The au fait accompli was that its proposed commuter subsidy would be based on the existing toll structure, and that the revised toll structure as adumbrated in the Concession Agree-ment, and brought to the attention of the Government, would be ignored. The other win-win scenario of an extension of the concession period that would have allowed the present toll structure and the subsidy levels proposed by the Government would presumably also be placed in doubt.”
Against this background, the Directors convened an Emergency Meeting on August 27 to discuss a way forward on the toll reductions.

Lost revenue
“Based on the figures that had been submitted to the Government, because tolls had not been in-creased based on the Toll Formula under the Concession Agreement, revenues of $1,228,523,720 had already been lost,” the Company said.
It also noted that because of the then Opposition’s successful move to lower the tolls in the 10th Parliament, the Company is already heavily indebted due to revenues lost.
“In June 2014, based on its financial model and debt commitments, BBCI began to repay the principal on its bonds. This increase in demand for cash was supposed to have been met by increases in tolls. However, such an increase was deemed untenable particularly after the then Opposition passed a mo-tion in the National Assembly on May 15, 2014 to reduce tolls by more than half. This motion was first tabled in December 2013,” the Bridge Company said.
Therefore, the Company said any agreement to a subsidy without honouring the toll adjustment formula set out in the Concession Agreement will result in the BBCI defaulting on its obligation to re-pay debt in 2015 and possible insolvency.
“In 2015, over $500 million in debt repayments to investors is required.  Directors cannot change the agreements reached with the investors in the bridge as represented by the Trustee for the debt and the Shareholders for the equity. Such a decision must involve an agreement with the Trustee and the Shareholders.
As such, any change in the Concession Agreement and the Toll Order which is made by the Govern-ment (the last one was made in 2009 by the Minister of Public Works), requires the approval of the Trustee and the shareholders.  All investors relied on the toll making adjustment in the financial model that is referenced in Schedule Four of the Concession Agreement and projected in the financial model referenced in the Concession Agreement,” the Company explained.
“A subsidy divorced from honouring the BBCI Concession agreement could very well result in bank-ruptcy for the BBCI,” it reiterated.
The Company noted that it is willing to provide the best service to the Berbice Bridge commuters at an affordable cost but reminded that it also has to fulfil their fiduciary responsibilities and also act in accordance to the law.

Reduced toll
During his budget presentation, Jordan had indicated that from September 1 this year, the toll for passenger vehicles crossing the Berbice Bridge would be reduced from $2200 to $1900.
The move, he said, was the first of a phased reduction of the tolls which he said have been a worri-some issue for Guyanese, particularly those living in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
The annual subsidy for the BBCI, Jordan informed, stands between $120 million and $140 million.
However, it was already established by observers that the toll $300 toll reduction will not benefit those who really need it, given that the everyday commuter who normally uses public transportation given that bus drivers and taxi drivers already insisted that they will not lower their fares, citing its in-significance.

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Bankruptcy looms if subsidies based at present rates

Berbice Bridge toll reductions…
…Directors duty-bound to inform stakeholders

The Opposition Party, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), led by Bharrat Jagdeo has signalled its willingness

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

to participate in debates with the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government about matters surrounding CLICO, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Berbice River Bridge.
On Friday, Jagdeo told the House that it was his duty to respond to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, after the Government Official addressed the issue of NIS’ “reckless investment” in CLICO costing the insurance scheme to lose billions of dollars.
However, the Opposition Leader stood his ground when he notified the National Assembly of the former Administration’s role in the transactions stating that the PPP/C had ensured that Guyana is the only country in the region to pledge that the face value would be redeemed.
“We believe we are the only country in the region that pledged that we will redeem the face value. We are the only country to do this…the defaulters of all the contributors to CLICO…even in Trinidad they are doing so at a discount and we have only done this through sound financial management.”
He stated that his Party would “welcome a debate on this” as he lashed out at the coalition Government for its position on the Berbice River Bridge.
“This is the Government that is now truncating the revenue stream of the Berbice River Bridge. They say it was a milking cow for friends and family of the PPP/C and now we are hearing that dividends have not been paid to the investors. You have to be consistent,” he told the Government side of the House.
He emphasised that should a debate be granted he would be able to tell the National Assembly of the early days when Minister Jordan was in the Office of the Budget and the APNU/AFC’s Vice President was Finance Minister; how the NIS money was used then being given to the City Council at zero rated bonds.
Jagdeo then alluded to the fact that calculations done by Minister Jordan and his statements during the Budget presentation stated that Guyanese will be benefitting from the Budget through greater disposable income.
“But the calculations have been very convenient, and when tomorrow when the people of this country wake up and they see, they look at their pay cheques and their benefits then they are going to realise how misleading many, much of the calculations made by the honourable Minister of Finance has been. The interest subsidy on NIS contribution has been removed. The Minister of Finance did not tell us the figure for that, how much the treasury will benefit, how much disposable income would be withdrawn from people based on the removal of the interest subsidy. But he told us that removing the interest from NIS contribution would contribute to 1.3 million people’s disposable income,” Jagdeo posited.
In his address, he continued to explain that similarly the PPP/C did not obtain from Minister Jordan a net calculation of the withdrawal of disposable income from every family in this country that has children going to school.
“We have heard about the $500 increase in uniform, but we did not hear much the cost of the removal of the $10,000 grant from school children and our calculation is this is close to $1.7 billion. We have heard about by extension benefits for rice farmers, the country was happy to hear that this Government is now putting in the Budget an incremental sum in their view of $23 billion to help rice farmers, and in the Budget Debate we saw honourable Minister of Finance dodge the question of where the money is budgeted using technicalities,” the PPP/C Leader also explained.
He further stated that while everyone has heard about the $3.8 billion that the rice industry was given, the Finance Minister again dodged the question as to whether or not the money came from the Consolidated Fund.
“And if this money came from the Consolidated Fund in the absence of a Budget he would have committed an illegal act. So if it did not come from the Consolidated Fund where did it come from? And if we can’t be told where it came from, did GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation) actually receive the money?” he questioned.

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December 7 likely date for Local Govt polls – Bulkan

Contending that the “minor” legislative amendments are not impinging on the operations of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan said December 7 is likely to be the date for the country’s long overdue Local Government Elections (LGE).

Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan

Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan

Attorney Anil Nandlall

Attorney Anil Nandlall

“I am told by GECOM that despite everything, the December 7 date is not in jeopardy,” Bulkan recently told <Guyana Times.
He noted that the early December period would be ideal for the staging of LGE as it will not interfere with Christmas celebrations.

GECOM on Friday explained that the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration was blocking its attempts to fully prepare for the Elections by not taking adequate steps to remove the legislative blockade in the way of the hosting of the Elections under a new and improved system.

On the other hand, Minister Bulkan told this publication that these amendments should not severely affect GECOM.
“Those minor legislative amendments are not expected to impinge or impact the timetable that GECOM currently possess in relation to the holding of these elections… The minor legislative amendment is not the issue holding up elections,” he insisted.

Instead, Bulkan sought to blame the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for the holdup.
“I’ve learnt that the Opposition raised a number of concerns in relation to several activities… There are a number of reservations being advanced by the Opposition… the Opposition seems to be playing a cat and mouse game to prove a point that we are misleading the public and that the date we desire is unrealistic,” the Minister speculated.

Minister Bulkan is holding out that the Government is currently at a standstill until GECOM further advises.
Government already budgeted $2 billion for the hosting of the LGE.

But GECOM is holding out that the Government knows what it has to do to enable GECOM to officially commence active steps to carry out its mandate as regards Local Government Elections.

GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield maintained that GECOM cannot proceed to prepare a Preliminary Lists of Voters for the conduct of Claims and Objections for the purpose of finalising the respective Registers of Voters that will be necessary to conduct LGEs in the 65 Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and the six municipalities in Guyana.

GECOM is also stating that existing legislation relative to the preparation of the Preliminary List of Voters requires that the Lists be prepared from the Official List of Electors that was used for the 1992 General and Regional Elections, explaining this legislation must be amended to clear the way for the Lists to be extracted from the up-to-date National Register of Registrants.

The Commission said too that the proposed (draft) amendment, among others, has already been prepared in one document which was discussed and fine-tuned between GECOM’s Legal Officer and the Chief Parliamentary Counsel of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Why LGE was not held since 1994
While in Opposition, APNU and AFC lambasted the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration for not holding LGE, claiming that they will host the LGE immediately after occupying office, casting blame upon the then Government for robbing citizens of their democratic right to elect the leaders for their Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and town councils.

But then Attorney General Anil Nandlall had contended that this is not so and explained how the main Opposition actively participated in the postponement of those elections.

He had chronicled a series of events in his attempt to explain how such an imperative event has been put off time and time again.

The former Attorney General recalled that in 1997, the then Government of the day went to general elections and since Local Government and General Elections could not have been facilitated in the same year, the decision was made to hold General Elections with the PPP/C Presidential Candidate being the late Janet Jagan. That election was followed by massive social unrest, riots, violence, street protests, and arson, which resulted in a team from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) intervening. This resulted in the LGE being delayed thereafter.

Further, for every year for onward for that period, there were amendments to the law, postponing Local Government Election.

“The Constitutional Reform Commission assembled and it began its work; that Commission recommended several changes to the Constitution that affected governmental structure generally, but more significantly that affected local government at the time,” Nandlall had explained.

However, when that process was completed another general election was held in 2001 and again during that period LGE was being postponed consensually by all the political parties in the Parliament. Following the 2001 election was more violence and unrest, which led to the postponement of LGE once again.

At that time, the Constitution provided for the establishment of a Local Government Commission, it did not provide for the way that the Commission will function, the powers that the Commission will have, the way the Commission will staff itself, all of which were supposed to be the subject of ordinary legislation.

“So while the Constitution laid the foundation, ordinary law would have outlined the way the constitutionally enshrined Commissioner was to function,” Nandlall stated. Subsequently, a task force was assembled to work out the modalities and to come up with draft legislation.

Again, as this process was being carried out, an amendment was moved in the National Assembly repeatedly and on an annual basis to postpone Local Government Election; this went on until 2009/2010.

Elections could have been held then, but a decision was taken for the hosting General and Regional Elections instead.
Then in 2011 when the 10th Parliament was convened works began on the local government bills which took about two to three years.

Nandlall had noted that only in 2014 the APNU started its “new enthusiasm” for LGE, making the then Government appear to be culprits in the process of postponement when for nearly 15 years they supported the process.

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Slothful Govt response affecting Corentyne rice farmers

More than 1500 acres of rice in under threat from lack of water in the 52-74 area in the Corentyne, Region Six (East

The head table at Thursday’s meeting (left-right) Chairman of the 52-74 IMC Rishieram Motie, Regional Chairman David Armogan, Waters Users Association Chairman Arjune Poonai, Regional Vice Chairman Dennis DeRoop and Regional Engineer Rupesh Persaud

The head table at Thursday’s meeting (left-right) Chairman of the 52-74 IMC Rishieram Motie, Regional Chairman David Armogan, Waters Users Association Chairman Arjune Poonai, Regional Vice Chairman Dennis DeRoop and Regional Engineer Rupesh Persaud

Berbice-Corentyne).
The farmers are calling on Government to act swiftly and have a pump installed so that they can have access to some much needed water for their rice fields.
More than two dozen farmers met with regional officials and members of the Waters Users Association on Thursday afternoon at the Tagore Memorial Secondary School with the hope of addressing the issue.
“They spending time on sending home people and investigating this and that and not paying any attention to we the farmers,” one of the farmers told the meeting which was chaired by Regional Chairman David Armogan and included Regional Vice Chairman Dennis DeRoop, Chairman of the Waters Users Association Arjune Poonai, Regional Engineer Rupesh Persaud and Chairman of the 52-72 Interim Management Committee (IMC) Rishieram Motie.
According to one farmer, the water in his field dried up on Thursday and the next two days are critical for his rice crop. Other farmers are facing a similar dilemma. About 14,000 acres of rice are being cultivated in the 52-74 area.
Guyana Times understands that the pump which supplies those farmers has been out of operation for three months.
The Region Six administration has written to the Agriculture Ministry seeking its intervention for funding to repair the pump.
Regional Chairman David Armogan says it is unfortunate that all he has received to date from the Ministry is a letter of acknowledgement. “It has a lot to do with slowness and I am not satisfied that we are getting the kind of quick response that we want with this new Administration. We used to get quicker response with the previous Administration. I don’t know if it is because we have new Ministers in the Ministries; a lot of them don’t seem to have their footing on the ground as yet and by the time they get their footing, farmers could be suffering,” the Chairman told Guyana Times.
Meanwhile, there is another urgent matter which the farmers would like to engage the attention of the Agriculture Ministry.  This publication was told that most of the dams leading to farmlands in the 52-74 area have been destroyed during the rainy weather.
Armogan told this publication that representation has been made to the Ministry for funding to repair the access dams. “I don’t know if funding will be released to do these dams… We will have to get this process moving otherwise we will run into serious trouble in terms of getting farmers to get their paddy out of the field,” he said.
Farmers are now forced to sit and wait to see if it will rain to save the crop or if the Ministry will come to their rescue.

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Govt to fork out $50M to handpicked Ram, Goolsarran

Sole-sourced State Audits

– Auditor General’s office subverted
Strident critics of the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Chartered Accountant

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

Christopher Ram and former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran, both of whom were “sole-sourced” by the Government for the purpose of the forensic audits, will cost the State in excess of $50 million, approximately two-thirds of the net figure allotted to be spent on the probes into State agencies.
This disclosure, which was made during the final hours of the consideration of the Budget Estimates, took the House by total surprise, because, not only was it discovered that these two individuals would be cashing in on hefty chunks of taxpayers’ monies, but the Government finally admitted that the auditors were hired without going to public tender as was required by the law.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking to reporters shortly after Budget 2015 was passed, noted that this was another act of deception by the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Administration.
“There was no public tender in sourcing them…no public tender whatsoever. These are some of the worse acts of

Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram

Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram

corruption by this Administration. These were the people who lectured about probity and accountability and being transparent,” Jagdeo stated, exposing the coalition’s duplicity once again.
Jagdeo had already revealed that the haphazard manner in which the Government decided to embark upon these audits was in complete violation of the law, but noted that the only reason the PPP/C did not take the matter to the courts was because the Party did not want to give the impression that it  was scared of being scrutinised.
“We don’t want people to think we have something to hide and that we are afraid of these audits and that is one of the reasons why we haven’t moved to the courts to stop this audit, because we don’t want people to think we are opposed to the audit,” he stated.
Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had also previously noted that the entire undertaking of the forensic audits was completely unconstitutional.
He too noted that the recruitment process of the auditors was an infringement of the Public Procurement Act.
“It is beyond dispute that those auditors were handpicked by the Minister of Finance without any public procurement process embarked upon…This mandatory statutory process was wholly ignored by the Minister of Finance and millions of dollars of services have been contracted to audit, ultra vires and in breach of the laws of Guyana and persons were simply handpicked by the Minister of Finance and given jobs. There was absolutely no public tendering. This is what is called “sole sourcing”, a concept that was vehemently criticised by the very persons who now practise it,” Nandlall exclaimed.

Compounding unlawfulness
Both Nandlall and Jagdeo recognised and highlighted that the manner in which the forensic audits were being

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran

Former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran

executed completely undermined the Office of the Auditor General.
Compounding the unlawfulness, the politicians pointed out that Goolsarran and Ram were hiring other auditors to assist in the process when they did not have the authority to do so.
“Not only does the Minister have the authority, but he gave these handpicked auditors the instructions to hire more auditors,” Nandlall said, arguing that the power to do this lies with the Auditor General Deodat Sharma.

Requisite skills
The contention was also made that Goolsarran and Ram did not even possess the requisite skills to conduct forensic audits.
“Normally when you do an audit, you get all your findings and you submit a management letter and the management responds to your findings… But every day they are releasing little bits to the newspapers to make it a political process… they are not competent and they do not have the skills,” Jagdeo had stated.
“We in the PPP will support any forensic audit, but for a forensic audit to be fair and to do its work to find corruption, you have to have the skills to do that and I submit that these two persons, they are political operatives. They do not have the skills to practise forensic audits…We are in favour of hiring a reputable international company, in a transparent process to do this, to do forensic audits of all of our accounts,” he added.

Conflict of interest
The argument was also made that both Goolsarran and Ram represent a clear conflict of interest.
An accredited accountant had already urged the David Granger-led Administration to engage one or more international accounting firms to conduct the forensic audits it is undertaking at several State agencies, arguing that some of the local firms identified present a clear case of conflict of interest and could destroy the credibility of the work they are being contracted to do.
“Given their ties to this Administration and obvious animosity towards the PPP/C, this is a clear case of lack of independence and conflict of interest. Goolsarran and Ram, who are members of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), should be reminded of that body’s code of ethics which mandate integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behaviour. Both gentlemen should, therefore, do the honourable thing and distance themselves from this engagement,” the accountant urged.

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Husband remanded for Berbice farmer’s murder

– gunpowder residue found on fingers

The husband of the murdered Number 45 Village cash crop farmer was on Friday placed before Magistrate Ann

Deoram Sookchand,59, was remanded to prison for his wife’s murder

Deoram Sookchand,59, was remanded to prison for his wife’s murder

McLennan in Court Two of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts charged with her murder.
Deoram Sookchand, 59, of Lot 19, Number 45 Village, Corentyne, was not required to plead to the indictable charge which read that on August 20 at Number 45 Village, he murdered Pamela Kendal called Pam.
Police Prosecutor Deniro Jones revealed that the investigation was still ongoing and the outstanding statements were with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The defendant was remanded to prison and the matter was transferred to the Whim Magistrate’s Court for September 14.
The 57-year-old Kendall was shot to her head at point blank range and subsequently rushed to the Skeldon Hospital where she succumbed while receiving medical treatment.
Following the shooting incident , Sookchand said he and his wife had just returned home and he headed straight for the bathroom.
He said as his wife was about to close the door, a lone gunman entered the house and demanded cash and jewellery. Sookchand also claimed that during the incident, he was in the bathroom and the pipes were running.
The woman started to scream and immediately ran out of the house as a gunshot went off. Reports are that Kendall ran to her brother’s house situated about 100 metres away and collapsed on the step. She was picked up by her nephews who then realised that she was bleeding. She was rushed to the Skeldon Hospital.
The incident occurred about 18:30h. At the time of the incident, there was a blackout in the community.
During investigations, Police had noted that the defendant had given conflicting statements and consequent to that forensic testing revealed that there were traces of gunpowder on his hands. He was arrested and charged for the murder although the motive remains unclear.

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