It is quite unfortunate that the President has stepped into the fray to lend his voice in support to the fiasco which surrounds the private company, Homestretch Development Inc’s (HDI) involvement in the D’Urban Park Development Project. In a press statement, the President clouds the issue of accountability and transparency in relation to monies spent on the project by glorifying and extolling the virtues of the D’Urban Park Project. His members of parliament did the identical thing in the National Assembly a few nights ago in order to avoid addressing the real issues.
The fact is this private company was secretly established and collected hundreds of millions of dollars to spend to develop a state asset. No one knew about HDI and its directors until Monday night when Minister David Patterson was forced to disclose these details in the National Assembly. Even then, he misled the National Assembly by not naming Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, as a director. He refused to answer important questions as to why this company was incorporated and given the work; how much money it received and from whom; how much money is owed and to whom it is owed; and what process of procurement was used by HDI to procure goods and services for the project. He refused to also disclose the total cost of the project, what the liabilities are arising from it and what the costs for its day-to-day management are.
The law is very clear on this issue. Once private monies are used on a public project it must be spent and accounted for in the same manner as public monies. Clearly this was not understood by those who formed this private company. It is obvious that HDI was used for the project so that the monies received and spent would not be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny and oversight, and the procurement of goods and services would not have to be done in accordance with the Procurement Act. This is exactly what transpired and that is why Minister Patterson refused to answer the questions posed to him in the National Assembly. In his defence, he directed us to go and ask the private company and said that he is not answerable for that company. The following day when the Company Secretary Larry London was asked by the press these very questions, he said he gave Minister Patterson all the information. So there is cover-up all around.
Then the President enters the fray and clearly demonstrates either he is out of sync with reality or he is part of a conspiracy to mislead the nation. The President says that the government did not have money to commence work on this project and as time was running out, this company was incorporated to start the work until the government was able to get funding from its budget. However, the 2015 budget was passed in August 2015, so by September 2015 there was money to be spent by the government. The company was not incorporated until January 2016. However, massive works started on this project in September 2015.The President’s story, therefore, simply does not make sense.
The President also conveys the impression that this is a government company. However, Minister Patterson was at pains in the National Assembly to convey the impression that this is a private company for which the government is not answerable. Indeed, this is the very reason why he diverted questions away from himself to the private company, and deliberately did not disclose that Minister Roopnaraine is a director of this company.
If the company was a government company as the President claims, why was this not made public for the past eleven months? The company has three directors who have no known connection to the government. Who are these people? If it was a government company why did it not receive monies through the constitutional process, that is via the Parliament? Why was the Procurement Act not used and contractors were handpicked? Where is the Cabinet decision to incorporate this company? Will the company be audited by the Auditor General? We are aware that hundreds of millions of dollars are owed to contractors, so who will pay these debts?
Irrespective of how it is spun, the financial provisions of the constitution, several provisions of the Financial Management and Accountability Act and the Procurement Act were all grossly violated and this entire fiasco reeks of corruption and cronyism.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP