Transparency Institute Guyana Incor-porated (TIGI) has called on the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to justify its operation of a commercial entity within a residential community.
In a recent press statement, TIGI noted that it first wrote to GGMC on November 6th, 2017, seeking clarification about a complaint of conflict of interest raised by residents of Subryanville. The residents had questioned whether it was appropriate for the GGMC to rent a building from a sitting Director, Hilbert Shields. They had also called on GGMC to justify the apparent flouting of zoning laws.
“Given that permission to use the premises for business is limited to [Guyana Shields Resource Inc], GGMC’s use of the premises would therefore be in breach of the laws of Guyana. TIGI wishes to know what justification the GGMC has for using the premises at… Subryanville for government business,” TIGI wrote to GGMC
It has not received a response to their queries but has noted media reports which state that “the director in question was not yet a member of the board at the time of the transaction.”
Stabroek News had previously reported that the building was rented in November, 2016, while Shields became a member of the board in April, 2017.
As a result, TIGI called for “concerns about the introduction of a conflict of interest once Mr. Shields became a director” to be addressed.
“One might speculate, for example, about whether Mr. Shields’ membership in the governing body is in any way affecting the haste, or lack thereof, with which the reported instruction from the Minister of Natural Resources to find another rental arrangement is being executed. What is the nature of Mr. Shields’ involvement in discussions and decisions about alternative accommodation for GGMC?” the statement further questioned before contending that GGMC has not done enough to clear the air.
GGMC had indicated as early as August 4th, 2017 that it would not renew its rental contract, which was set to expire in December of 2017. Since September, 2017, the agency has been advertising for expression of interest in providing rental space.
Questions still remain about how a government agency could violate zoning laws.
In its letter to the GGMC, TIGI noted that “… such an arrangement [rental of office space in a residential area] involves a breach of the laws governing an area so classified especially without giving fair hearing to the residents … would imply official declassification of the area without due process and the inauguration of changes to the environment that the residents have developed for themselves over the years.”
It stressed that as the by-laws and ordinances of residential areas are increasingly being violated with the establishment of commercial ventures within them, it is pertinent to ask about the precedent that the establishment of offices in a residential area by the GGMC will leave for the residents of Subryanville to deal with.
“It seems clear that the rental of the property for business purposes in the residential area by the government agency will signal to others that it is alright to violate the terms of their licenses to allow unauthorised businesses to operate. If a government agency like the GGMC could do it with impunity, why should anyone else not believe that such behaviour must be condoned?” it asked.