I was shocked by recent disclosures in the press attributed to Mr Horace James, the Chief Executive Officer of NICIL, that the entity is financially “broke.” It is public knowledge that NICIL, during the PPP/C administration, contributed billions to the treasury from its commercial dealings. Indeed, the APNU+AFC, while in opposition, exhibited an indecipherable, if not morbid obsession, with NICIL and the billions which it generated. The production in the National Assembly of annual audited statements done under the supervision of the Auditor General’s Office, as well as full and frank disclosures by NICIL of the details and material particulars of every transaction of the entity since 1993, failed to wean off the then opposition’s incomprehensible obsession. There were incessant outpourings in the press on an almost daily basis, accusing NICIL and those in charge of it of multiple wrongdoings and illegalities of various kinds.
When the PPP/C left office, NICIL owned and controlled billions of dollars, in both fixed assets and liquidity. In less than two-and-a-half years, the nation is fed with the bizarre news that this company is virtually bankrupt. The government cannot claim that they are unaware of the billions that NICIL generated. The audit reports are there to show. Moreover, newspapers dating back a decade prior to 2015, are inundated with current government ministers, then in the opposition, wailing and howling about these billions at NICIL. To where have these huge sums of money disappeared? Have they dried up due to incompetence and squandermania? Or have they been stolen? How can a company that was generating billions of dollars less than 3 years ago, suddenly become bankrupt? If it is a result of incompetence, then such level of incompetence must attract criminal liability. Answers must be forthcoming. The Guyana Police Force and more specifically SOCU, ought to be called in to launch an immediate investigation. After all, the nation is aware of how much energy, time, resources and taxpayer dollars are being expended on the prosecution for law books, now valued at $400,000. Billions are now admittedly missing from NICIL. Criminal charges seem inevitable.
I knew something was fundamentally wrong at NICIL very early under this administration, when Minister Joe Harmon, upon his return from that infamous private jet trip to China, reported that the US$5 million on the sale of the GT&T shares was paid prior to May 2015. The Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, former President Ramotar and I, immediately made public statements, individually, debunking this lie. I called upon NICIL and Minster Harmon to produce evidence of this payment and to indicate to whom the payment was made. I surmised that the US$5 million must have been paid via the banking system and the payer would have insisted on some form of receipt evidencing this payment. Clearly, these documents ought to be accessible, or quickly retrievable. Yet, it took NICIL nearly one year to conclusively put this matter to rest by admitting that the monies are still owed. This admission came only after the fact that this matter was being reported in the press with great frequency and tremendous public pressure was being exerted for a response. Clearly, it should not take such a protracted period to clarify such a simple issue in a normal organization and under normal circumstances. I knew since then that something was wrong at NICIL. That Minister Harmon is a member of the board aggravated my intrigue.
Now we are told by Mr James that NICIL does not even have the money to pursue the recovery of this debt. Under the PPP/C government, these GT&T shares were advertised publicly and they yielded the highest bid of only US$7 million. Yet NICIL, under the PPP/C administration, was able to secure US$30 million as the purchase price for these shares. US$25 million was paid as a deposit while the PPP/C was in government. An outstanding US$5 million was to be paid at a later date. The time for this payment has long expired. Now we are learning that they even cannot recover the US$5 million! The incompetence is overwhelming.
Fortunately, interest is accruing on this debt at a rate of 12% per annum, as per the agreement. The agreement has an arbitration clause, which mandates the parties to settle any dispute by arbitration. The arbitration clause provides that the successful party will recover from the unsuccessful party all costs in relation to the arbitration. NICIL has every likelihood of succeeding at the arbitration. However, we are now informed that NICIL is not even possessed of the financial ability to invoke the arbitration clause. This is beyond ludicrous. Are we to assume that NICIL will forego this debt? NICIL is one hundred per cent government owned. Is the government saying that they cannot afford a lawyer to recover this debt of over one billion Guyana dollars? Lawyers are available in Guyana and around the globe who will work on a contingency arrangement and only on the basis of a win. The lawyers in the cabinet are unaware of this? Or will this be another sweetheart settlement? Only a forensic audit and a thorough police investigation can provide satisfactory answers.
Last Monday, the PPP/C issued a statement detailing the billions of dollars which NICIL has tied up in pending legal proceedings. The statement contends that NICIL is being dilatory in the prosecution of these matters because many of them involve suits filed by NICIL against the financiers of APNU+AFC. The statement further alluded to hundreds of millions of dollars of debts which are owed to NICIL, again, by financiers of APNU+AFC, but no steps are being taken to recover them. Billions of dollars of properties are unlawfully occupied by certain persons/companies without the payment of any compensation to NICIL for the occupation of these properties. Yet, no steps are taken either to recover compensation, or to recover possession. The reason is clear. They are friends and cronies of the government.
Moreover, we are not aware that any audited financial statements of NICIL have been done in respect of the last two years. When these statements were late under the PPP/C administration, Messrs Khemraj Ramjattan and Carl Greenidge moved motions in the National Assembly calling for the same. Where are their voices now? What about Mr Anand Goolsarran et al and organizations which hold themselves out to be crusaders against corruption and champions of accountability and transparency?
Their continued silence is destroying their credibility.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall, MP