I refer to your article captioned, `GRA Head defends Bai Shan Lin parking deal’, SN 10-30-2013, and would like to state that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Commissioner General, Mr. Khurshid Sattaur, may not have the authority to engage in the development of the Lamaha Street parking lot or pay fees or rent to any agency or entity for such works. Such authority comes from the Parliament through the budgeting process and this has not been authorized. In addition, the parking lot will require maintenance and it would seem based on the article that no amount has been budgeted for the maintenance of the parking lot.
Would Georgetown tax payers be responsible for this cost or is this another dubious investment scheme in the making by the Government of Guyana?
Mr. Sattaur states that “the GRA will soon enter into an economic relationship that would result in payment being made over a period of time for such facilities to be rented for a number of years at a nominal fee.” My guess is that this sell out will be to the owners who have established businesses at the corner of Lamaha and Camp streets, the very location where the parking lot is being developed.
At that location, congestion will be a problem as parking spots become scarce and the GRA staff will most likely have to pay to park at that location or they will have to be subsidized by the GRA. Given that the mandate of the GRA is to collect taxes on behalf of the people of Guyana and that the GRA is not authorized to engage in development projects, this dubious venture will most likely morph into another nontransparent and unaccountable NICIL.
If Bai Shan Lin (BSL) wishes to be generous to the people of Guyana, as we have been so generous to them in that we allowed them to extract our natural resources for free, then they can do the following:
1. Publish the agreement under which this deal was made as full disclosure will improve transparency and start a process of rehabilitating the image of Bai Shan Lin in Guyana.
2. Cancel the terms in the agreement which say that we the people of Guyana must pay a fee for the use of our own parking lot (this is hilarious). In other words, “Massa Day Done”, (Dr. Eric Williams, 1961). BSL needs to know some Caribbean history.
3. In order to be generous, BSL should donate the use of the equipment for free to the project, once the project has been formally approved and the Guyana Power and Light’s (GPL) concerns are resolved. Incidentally, I commend Mr. Bharrat Dindial, the General Manager of GPL, for speaking out against the construction of the parking lot at that location. Sound advice by professionals seems not to have any sway with Government policymakers, until disaster strikes.
Finally, it is laughable how the Government of Guyana makes investment decisions and how they compound problems instead of solving them and learning from their mistakes. They do not seem to do first what all good investments must have; that is produce an investment document that considers all of the following: the engineering and technological attributes; the management and accountability requirements; and the measurement of the economic, financial, social and environmental costs and benefits. These components must be available before making a decision to spend taxpayer money. We have seem this unprofessional approach in many publicly funded projects, including the Skeldon and bag projects for sugar, the Marriott Hotel, Amaila hydro project, the road to Amaila and the Supenaam wharf, among many other disasters.
In this parking lot case, it would appear that the government pushed the empty CLICO building on GRA, because the Government wanted to secure a risk-free cash-flow stream for the NIS, which suffered losses when the NIS made a terrible investment decision by placing its funds in the CLICO hole, without having a serious investment strategy. GRA is chosen because they are flush with taxpayer cash and therefore the government rents GRA the CLICO building so that money flows to NIS. But GRA now finds itself in a bind. The CLICO building, which is located in a densely used area with heavy traffic volumes, lacks the appropriate accommodation and it does not have sufficient parking space for staff and the public who visit there daily. As mentioned before, Camp and Lamaha streets will be congested and it will not solve the GRA’s parking problems.
These findings are the views of the Commissioner whose solution compounds the problem further by building a parking lot approximately a half a mile away. The alternative to this madness is that the Commissioner should tell the Government to move his office to a new location, perhaps on the east coast, and build an appropriate building to house the GRA staff and be able to serve taxpayers.
Instead, Mr. Sattaur goes beyond his mandate and engages in polemics, such as, Bai Shan Lin… “seized the opportunity to demonstrate its corporate social responsibility”. It is high time that Bai Shan Lin speak for itself, for the burden is theirs to unload.
C. Kenrick Hunte