APNU+AFC Councillor on the Enmore/ Hope Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) Deochan Singh is maintaining that a decision was indeed taken to sell the computers that were seized by the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) and the eGovernment Unit last Thursday.
In an interview with Stabroek News, Singh said that the council members did vote on the suggestion to sell the computers that were donated to the NDC by the Caribbean Development Bank-funded Basic Needs Trust Fund.
Singh showed a copy of the minutes, dated November 16, 2016, to Stabroek News. The minutes stated that he had inquired about the computers in the computer room at the NDC and a decision was made to sell. “The minutes have shown that a decision was made by the council and I cannot lie on the minutes,” Singh said.
On Sunday, acting NDC Chairman Mohammed Dawud maintained that no decision had been made to sell 15 computers and that the council was considering its options.
“We just made a suggestion in the meeting, we did not go for a vote, it was not confirmed. All that was written in the minutes was ‘Councilors decided to sell computers’ and it was not confirmed,” Dawud said.
Singh noted that the council comprises 16 People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) councillors and two A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) councillors. He said when the suggestion to sell the computers went for a vote, the 16 PPP/C councilors voted in favour of the sale, with Dawud as the intended buyer. “The council put it to him that he should look at the computers for the purchase and he decided to buy it,” Singh told Stabroek News.
The councillor informed that he later made a report after he was informed by eGovernment Unit that it wanted to create an Information Technology Centre (ITC) in the community. “I said that Enmore already has an ITC and they had some computers there and I think the council made a decision to sell the computers,” Singh noted. He said the eGovernment officials had told him that the NDC cannot sell the computers because it belonged to the Basic Needs Trust Fund.
Singh added that since then he had made efforts to thwart the plans of the council to sell the computers and after the matter was reported, the team from eGovernment, accompanied by SARU went to seize the computers last Thursday.
Singh further explained to this newspaper that on the day of the seizure, the SARU and eGovernment officials had called him and explained that they wanted to visit the ITC at the NDC. He said that the team wanted him to accompany them to Enmore, which he did.
“When the team reach to the place, they told the clerk that they were there to view the ITC and they asked if it was working and the clerk told them that she would call the Chairman,” he said. He explained that as the team was going through the room, they uncovered the dusty computers. Singh noted that some of the computers did not look as if they were in a working condition and that they were in a bad state.
He explained that while the team was checking the computers, sometime after Dawud showed up. “He come with his cellphone and started to videotape me… I said vice-chairman you need to take the camera off of me or you need to ask me my permission and I am not here on this operation, I am just here to accompany these people,” Singh noted.
He added that the acting chairman ignored him and continued videotaping him. While Dawud has reported Singh to the police for allegedly assaulting him during the encounter, Singh said that he never assaulted the acting chairman.
According to Singh, the team collected the computers along with power packs and power strips, and a member from the eGovernment Unit signed a list documenting what they took and what was left in the room. He also noted that the overseer, who was present, signed as well.
Singh told Stabroek News that all the computers were taken away and the team told the overseer that the NDC would get them back as soon as they were ready “to put things in place.”
Singh said that the notion that the computers were in use by persons in the community was a lie. He said that the computers have never been used and there were never any classes. “There were no classes, since those computers went there, they don’t have money to pay a teacher to teach these classes,” he explained. “I don’t see nothing wrong with the people wanting to secure and repair the computers and to open the ITC… All they have to do before they get back the computers is clean up the rooms, set up back the office and create a programme for the community,” he added, while claiming that the NDC may never “put things in place” because the PPP members want to play political games to bring down the government.
A statement issued on Friday by the Ministry of Public Telecommunications 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 contended 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.
However, the NDC has said the equipment belongs to it and that SARU and the government have no authority to interfere with its decisions as 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 in a statement last Friday, 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.”