Dr Roger Luncheon yesterday testified that the divestment of state property is based on the advice of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Ltd (NICIL).
He was at the time detailing Cabinet’s involvement during the continuation of testimony in the $10 million libel case brought by President Bharrat Jagdeo against Kaieteur News and its columnist Freddie Kissoon.
Luncheon, who is the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, during re-examination by Jagdeo’s attorney Anil Nandlall, was asked about the divestment of several properties, including Guyana Stockfeeds Limited building; Diamond Sugar Estate Compound; the GuySuCo building on Camp Street between Quamina and Middle streets; the Rice Marketing Board building on Water Street; the National Archives building on Main Street; the Guyana Airways Corporation property on Main Street; the Claybrick Factory and Guyana Corporative Insurance Service.
In the case of Guyana Stockfeeds, Luncheon explained that there was a market evaluation, as is the procedure when assets are being divested. According to Luncheon, the asset was then put to public tender by NICIL. It was based on this evaluation and on the consideration of the prices quoted by bidders that the recommendation was prepared. The recommendation of the proposed sale, he told the court, was endorsed by NICIL and later brought to Cabinet’s attention. The sale went to the most competitive bidder, he said.
Luncheon also explained that expressions of interest for an asset, whether for sale or lease, are communicated in the form of a public notice in the national newspaper. He added that there was a similar process with the divestment of the other properties, at the end of which Cabinet gave its ‘no objection’ to the award based on the recommendation from NICIL.
Luncheon also addressed the process involved in the disposal of state lands, which he said included advertisements, bidding and recommendations.
With specific reference to the award of lots at the Coldingen Estate, Luncheon said after the site preparation there was an advertisement seeking persons of interest. He said that those who submitted were subject to a process that required them to turn over a management plan outlining what they intended to do with the land. He said that upon evidence of their ability to implement the management plan, those persons were offered the “$1 per lot lease.” NICIL, he further told the court, was in charge of executing that aspect of the process.
Answering a question regarding the estate allocations, Luncheon said that it was first established around 1994, during the tenure of the late president Cheddi Jagan. He said from his recollection, the final allocation was completed prior to Jagdeo being president.
With respect to Eccles, Luncheon said that after the land was prepared and divided, expressions of interest were sought. He said that those who submitted underwent a process similar to the one used for Coldingen, including a submission of a management plan. Once those interested met the criteria, the process ended with NICIL, which executed the arrangement of the lease.
At one point during the hearing, which is before Justice Brassington Reynolds, Nandlall attempted to inquire whether NICIL or the government had anything to do with the transfer of the Main Street land that the New Thriving restaurant now occupies. However, defence attorney Nigel Hughes objected and the judge disallowed the question.
Nandlall also attempted to clarify the basis upon which Cabinet offers it’s ‘no objection’ in respect to the award of contracts. In answering, Luncheon said that Cabinet receives awards for the procurement of goods and services that exceed $15 million from the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB). Those awards which are submitted for no objections are evaluated in compliance with the Act and its regulations, he said. Cabinet, he added, then examines the evaluation reports which are done by the Evaluation Committee. He testified that the reports must conform or show evidence that they conform to the rules and regulations and specifically what was called for in the bidding document.
“Cabinet’s no objection attests to Cabinet’s satisfaction of the procurement rules and regulations having been honoured in that specific award and what has been laid out in the bidding document has been scrupulously honoured by the proposed awardee,” he added. He said that Cabinet’s withholding of its no objection is an indicative of its dissatisfaction. He stressed that the grant of the no objection is based on the submissions made by NPTAB in its recommendations to Cabinet.
The libel suit was prompted by a June 28, 2010 Kissoon article, titled ‘King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference.’
The case continues today.