Private criminal charges were yesterday filed against three ministers of government for the channeling of funds into the controversial D’Urban Park in the absence of a procurement process.
The charges against Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson and Minister of Public Service Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, which allege misconduct and abuse of public trust, were filed in Georgetown by opposition parliamentarian Anil Nandlall, who will be prosecuting the charges.
Nandlall last week filed similar charges against Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and her predecessor Dr. George Norton but those charges were yesterday discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who said the allegations “ought first to have been reported to the Guyana Police Force for an investigation to be launched and the advice of the DPP sought.” It is expected that the new charges will be discontinued for the same reasons.
The charge against Jordan and Patterson states that between December 14th, 2016 and March 31st, 2017 in Georgetown, without reasonable excuse or justification, they “willfully misconducted themselves in a way which amounted to the abuse of public trust” by paying or authorising to be paid the sum of $906,000,000, being public funds, to Homestretch Development Incorporated (HDI) and contractually engaging it for and on behalf of the government for the property, D’Urban Jubilee Park, without any form of procurement process as prescribed by law.
The charge against Roopnaraine stated that while performing the duties of Minister of Education between December 14th, 2016 and March 31st, 2017 in Georgetown, he “willfully misconducted himself in a way which amounted to abuse of public trust without reasonable excuse or justification by acting as Director of Homestretch Development Incorporated,” a private limited liability company which received from the Ministry of Finance $906,000,000 being public funds for works purportedly done to and at a facility styled D’Urban Jubilee Park, without any form of procurement process as prescribed by law.
Ministers Jordan, Patterson and Roopnaraine were not present in court when the matter was called before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan as Nandlall told the court that he was unable to serve summons on the three defendants. The Chief Magistrate subsequently issued summons for all three defendants and adjourned the matter until April 30th.
Speaking to the media before the matter was called in court, Nandlall stated that his party plans to institute more charges.
PPP/C Member of Parliament Juan Edghill, who serves as the complainant in both matters that were filed yesterday, stated that the issue of D’Urban Park’s funding has been in the public notice since the opposition has complained and written to the Public Procurement Commission about it.
“When the President announced that the project was being handed over to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, he [said] $150 million from the Contingencies Fund would be made available. When they came in the supplementary paper, it amounted to $406 million. After we would have approved that $406 million by majority vote in the National Assembly, we discovered that another $500 million was budgeted for on the particular line item in terms of capital works for Public Infrastructure. When we questioned that $500 million and what it is going for, we discovered that the minister said it is being transferred to Homestretch Development Inc for the payment of contractors for the D’Urban Park project. There is no evidence whatsoever that those contractors engaged in competitive bidding, we don’t know that the prices that are quoted are actually market-driven prices because they didn’t come as a result of competitive bidding following the procurement process and we don’t know that taxpayers’ money was spent in the best way and how could you take taxpayers money and fund a private company that went into a procurement process that was contrary to our procurement laws. Who benefitted and how much they benefitted would be a matter to be discussed at a later stage,” he further stated.
The Auditor General is currently conducting a special audit of the D’Urban Park project, the spending for which has exceeded $1 billion.