Infrastructure ministry to provide info to audit office for D’Urban Park probe

– Auditor General

The floor of the VIP section of D’Urban Park was recently replaced ahead of the Republic anniversary flag-raising ceremony. Despite the more than $1 billion spent on the facility, critics have said poor work and substandard building materials have created more expenses. (Stabroek News file photo)

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure has indicated its intention to provide the Audit Office with some information about money spent on the billion-dollar D’Urban Park Development Project, according to Auditor General Deodat Sharma, who says that he is yet to hear from the private developer responsible for the initial work.

Sharma told this newspaper last week that he has gotten no information “directly” from Homestretch Development Inc (HDI). He wrote to the company about a month ago requesting information relating to the investigation of the project. To date, he has gotten no response.

Instead, he was informed that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure has some information, which will be copied and handed over.

Sharma said he would have to close the probe with what he has been provided

In November of 2015, then Governance Minister Raphael Trotman had announced that Cabinet had given the go ahead for contracts for the transformation of D’Urban Park into a “Green Zone Recreational Park,” in time for Guyana’s 50th anniversary celebrations the following year.

It was around this time that Larry London was linked to the project.

London was subsequently revealed to be a part owner of HDI. It was later learnt that then Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was also director of HDI. President David Granger had defended his involvement with the company, saying that the minister’s role was only to represent the government’s interest.

From all indications, HDI, through donations both from local persons and those in the diaspora, commenced work at the site in September, 2015, about two months before government officially announced what was happening there.

Over $1 billion has been on the project and despite this, the National Assembly has been asked to approve millions in extra-budgetary spending to meet additional costs.

State Minister Joseph Harmon recently berated Sharma for publicly commenting on the ongoing investigation and for reaching out to the private company for information instead of the government.

He was responding to the contents of an article that appeared in this newspaper’s February 21st edition in which Sharma disclosed that he had written to HDI.

“That company, they would have collected money. We don’t know how much money they collected and we don’t know what type of expenditures they did before the Ministry of Public [Infrastructure] took it [the project] over,” he had said.

This newspaper had contacted Harmon asking whether government is concerned that Sharma and his office were not getting information from the private developer. In response, he had said, “The Auditor General has to do what he has to do. When he is finished [with] his report, he must make a statement. I don’t understand this thing about him complaining about this and complaining about that. The Auditor General has a way of doing his work…If he has a problem getting the information, he has to get the information from the government. I don’t know the Auditor General deals with private individuals or a private company. He knows what he has to do.”

Sharma had explained that the National Assembly was told that HDI had handed over all the documents to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure. He said that he subsequently wrote to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, who said that he didn’t have any information. As a result, he took the decision to write the company, requesting the required information.

Harmon insisted that Sharma ought to complete his work and lay his report in the National Assembly before he publicly comments on the matter.

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