$3B investment proposal wasn’t discussed by housing authority

- board member

The Central Housing  and Planning Authority (CH&PA) did not meet or discuss any proposal to take $3 billion in funds from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) for the development of the housing sector, according to board member Ranwell Jordan.

Last week, Cabinet approved the $3 billion transfer by the GGMC to the CH&PA, having abandoned a plan for a loan between the two agencies that had attracted controversy and a court challenge. However, the GGMC has since been advised that it couldn’t be directed to move money to another agency.

The two agencies had announced the loan agreement on January 29, saying it was based on an investment proposal by the CH&PA. According to the joint statement announcing the agreement, the CH&PA project is “pivotal to the realisation of the Government of Guyana strategic target of allocating 30,000 lots under the Adequate and Affordable Housing Programme in order to maintain momentum in the provision of service land in several areas on the East and West Demerara.”

But the loan agreement was challenged by Jordan, through attorneys Christopher Ram and Brenden Glasford, and in his supporting affidavit, he said no investment proposal came up for consideration in January.

“I attended the only statutory meeting of the CHPA held during the month of January 2015, namely on Thursday January 29, 2015 and I was present throughout the meeting. At no time during that meeting was any investment proposal submitted for consideration or decision or was any agreement tabled for loan from the GGMC,” he declared.

Jordan also said the CH&PA did not authorise any of its officers to sign on its behalf any loan agreement for $3 billion or any other sum from the GGMC or from any other person during the month of January, 2015.

He also said he had been advised by his attorney that the CH&PA had no authority under the Housing Act to borrow money from the GGMC or from any other person.

Based on applications by Jordan and WPA activist Desmond Trotman, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang had directed both the CH&PA and the GGMC to justify the agreement.

The proposed loan has since been abandoned and the Cabinet decision on Tuesday said the transfer was to support the “development of housing infrastructure projects in mining communities and other areas where miners settlement occur.” In the eye of the controversy, the GGMC sought legal advice from law firm, Cameron and Shepherd and Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran noted that Section 31 (1) of the GGMC Act says that the subject minister may give directions to the commission of a general nature.

“Assuming that the Cabinet decision constitutes a direction by the Minister, such direction does not fall within the scope of section 31(1) which relates to ‘directions of a general character as to …policy … in the performance of its functions…’ A direction to pay over to another agency for the development of housing infrastructure is an operational (matter); it is not a direction on policy. The Minister has no power to direct the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission to carry out a specific act,” the advice stated.

The advice further noted that the functions of the Act are set out in section 4 and do not “remotely relate to the development of housing infrastructure or anything connected to it even in mining communities of for miners.”

According to Ramkarran’s advice, the functions of the GGMC relate to the development of mining and mineral resources.