In 1992, when the PPP took office, there was a mad rush for house lots. Many people who weren’t able to get a lot through the fair system were forced to pay a bribe to get land; some did not get their land although they were qualified, and had paid the $10,000 fee which was required for the processing of the application and the issuing of a transport. A number of my close friends and families from Georgetown and East Coast Demerara were caught up in this scam; some officers were allegedly collecting money at their homes and were selling house lots, so their homes became the ministry in transacting business. In 1995, I was appointed a Director of the Central Housing and Planning Authority Board (CH&PA). My family and friends learnt that I had become a member of the board and started to attend meetings in Georgetown. Some of them called me on the phone and told me that they wanted to meet, and discuss what had happened to them and their money for a house lot that they had applied for since 1992.
We decided to meet before the meeting started in the ministry compound at Homestretch Avenue. They showed me receipts which had been issued to them bearing the ministry’s stamps and the officer’s signature, and how they had been asked to pay the $10,000 fee so they could get a house lot. This transaction took place at two officers’ houses; the names of the persons were given to me. I saw these two officers working at the ministry in separate offices. I did not approach them since I wanted to raise it at the board meeting where the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer were present.
I changed my mind and took these people into the office and told them to have a seat until I established if these receipts were associated with the person who was responsible for the issuing of house lots. I showed the officer the receipts and asked when these people would be given a house lot which they already paid for. I showed the officer the applicants who were sitting outside. The person took a glance through the door and it seems to me recognized them; I was told that their applications were being worked on, and they would soon be given their house lots. I said that these people had applied since 1992, and were still on the waiting list, while others who had just applied had been given house lots in preference.
At the board meeting, I brought this matter to the attention on the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman; I showed them the receipts, and the CEO promised to launch an investigation into the matter. After months and years nothing came out of the investigation, and the applicants lost their money. Some of them migrated, others became frustrated with the system and gave up. I tried again to address it with a senior official, only to be told that the receipts were fake and indeed some officers were selling house lots outside the ministry.