The Hope/Enmore Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) is maintaining that the 15 computer systems that were seized by State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) were not government property and is calling their seizure an act of “executive lawlessness.”
NDC Vice-Chairman Mohammed Dawud, in a statement issued on behalf of the NDC on Friday night, denied that there was a plot to sell the computers to a councillor, as has been alleged by both SARU and the Public Telecommunications Ministry.
“There was no such plot and nothing clandestine or unlawful was intended,” the statement said. “The truth is that these computers are the property of the NDC. They are outdated and most of them were malfunctioning. As a result, a decision was taken by the NDC that these computers would be sold, if possible, and replaced by the NDC with a new complement, so that the community can continue to benefit from their use,” it added.
Chief Executive Officer of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) Aubrey Heath-Retemeyer told Stabroek News that the minutes of an NDC meeting held on November 16th, 2016, showed that a decision was made to sell the computers. According to him, the minutes were signed by the Chairman of the NDC on December 21st, 2016.
Officials of SARU and the eGovernment Project Execution Unit seized the computers on Thursday in a move that the NDC has called “trespass” and “unlawful deprivation of property.”
Heath-Retemeyer said that an investigation will be launched to ascertain who authorised the sale.
“We need to find that out who gave the authority to sell government stuff,” he said, while noting that evidence points to plans to sell the computers to a councillor who operates an internet café.
However, the NDC explained that the decision to sell the computers was made at a public statutory meeting of the NDC and recorded in the minutes. “Therefore, there was nothing sinister, secretive or illegal about it as has been suggested by the Government,” it added.
A statement issued on Friday by the Ministry of Public Telecommunications also said that upon learning of the impending sale, officials from the eGovernment Project Execution Unit, which has oversight of government’s ICT assets, responded to prevent the sale. The ministry noted that the computers were donated by the Basic Needs Trust Fund for use by residents of the community and, therefore, they could not be sold.
The NDC, however, disagrees and has argued that SARU and the Government have no authority to interfere with decisions of the NDC, which is an autonomous legally-elected body that is independent of the government and legally authorised to make its own decisions.
“…We reject the Government’s attempt at justifying SARU’s illegal actions of trespass and unlawful deprivation of the property of the NDC,” it said, and added that it continues to maintain “that officers of SARU and the Ministry of the Presidency acted unlawfully, excessively and abused their authority when they unlawfully entered upon the NDC’s premises and seized the NDC’s property.”
The opposition PPP/C, in a statement released hours after the seizure on Thurs-day, had said that the equipment is owned by the Community Resource Centre, a non-governmental organisation established by the residents of Enmore and which uses the equipment to hold classes in the upper flat of the NDC building for young people of the community.