No action to be taken against Lands and Surveys officials over Santa Fe project

By “ministerial order” two Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) officials at the centre of a controversy regarding surveying for the Santa Fe mega farm in the Rupununi will return to work on Thursday and no disciplinary action will be taken against them.

Commissioner of the GL&SC Doorga Persaud was sent a note to this effect by the Board of Directors, sources told Stabroek News.

According to information provided, no disciplinary action will be taken against the officials and Persaud was also told that he should take the blame for emails being leaked to the press regarding the matter. Stabroek News had first reported on the issue.

There was no word on the other findings of the probe. The Board of Directors of the GL&SC had reviewed a report regarding alleged breaches of procedure involving surveying for the Santa Fe mega farm. Stabroek News had reported last month that a senior official and a surveyor were ordered to take an additional two weeks and a month’s leave respectively as reports of kickbacks to officials were being probed.

President Donald Ramotar intervened after senior GL&SC officials complained to him and other government officials about the Santa Fe survey which would have seen the GL&SC losing over $10 million. The President ordered that the privately done survey be cancelled and redone by the GL&SC.

An investigation was also initiated and correspondence among officials which was seen by Stabroek News indicated rifts within the agency.

According to a letter from a senior official at the commission, the issue began when an internal inquiry was initiated into the whereabouts of a surveyor. Subsequently, a broader investigation was recommended.

The GL&SC has statutory responsibility for all public lands in Guyana and based on the correspondence, Santa Fe was in the process of contracting surveying work to a private contractor, a move which was not welcomed by some senior officials but was approved by the senior official who was sent on leave.

“The survey could have been done by GL&SC, but it appears that a private surveyor is being identified for the work, which could result in the loss of revenue for GL&SC of over $10 million,” Commissioner of the GL&SC Persaud said in correspondence to top officials including Ramotar and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon.

In the correspondence which was seen by Stabroek News, Persaud said that following the instructions of the President, he was going to cancel all arrangements for a private surveyor to do the work in Region 9 and that the GL&SC would conduct the survey.

Santa Fe, which is operated by the Simpson Group of Companies out of Barbados has been in the spotlight recently over the use of chemicals on the farm in the North Rupununi. It has not responded to requests by Stabroek News for an interview on its investment and all the information on it has been provided by the Government Information Agency (GINA) with the exception of a recent statement by the Ministry of Natural Resources which quoted the Group.

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