Former Ministry of Agriculture engineer Hanniel Madramootoo was arrested yesterday morning upon his arrival at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri and later charged with defrauding the Government of Guyana.
Almost a year after his wife and her co-accused, the former General Manager of the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) Nizam Hassan, had the charge dismissed relating to payments purportedly made for substandard work on the GMC Head Office, Madramootoo was charged with the said offence.
Madramootoo, 35, of Lusignan, East Coast Demerara, the former Ministry of Agriculture engineer, was brought before Magistrate Leron Daly where the charge was read to him.
The charge, which comes as a result of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) probe of the findings in a forensic audit, alleges that the defendant, between October 28, 2010 and April 25, 2012, conspired with his wife, Felecia De Souza-Madramootoo, Phillip Madramootoo, Nizam Ramkissoon and General Manager of GMC, Hassan to commit the offence by continuously approving payments which were made to Constantine Engineering and Construction Services Limited for works that were “incompetently and incorrectly” done with inferior materials to rehabilitate the GMC building at Robb and Alexander streets, Bourda, fully knowing that such works should not have been approved for payments.
The accused was not required to enter a plea to the charge.
Police Prosecutor Sanj Singh objected to bail being granted stating that the accused is a flight risk and that he was arrested at the CJIA yesterday morning and brought to court.
Attorney Glenn Hanoman, however, urged the court to release his client on reasonable bail. He noted that the accused had never been summoned to attend court.
Although there was strong objection by the prosecution to the accused being granted bail, Magistrate Daly stated that there was no evidence on her case file to show that the accused was ever warned to attend court.
Subsequently, the defendant was granted $1 million bail. However, attorney Hanoman begged the court for a reduction, citing the fact that his client is a remigrant to Guyana and is without work, and that his wife is a teacher and would not be able to post that sum. Bail was then reduced to $500,000, and the accused was ordered to lodge his passport and all other travel documents.
The matter was then adjourned to June 29 and referred to the courtroom of the Chief Magistrate.
On October 20, 2017, Hassan and De Souza-Madramootoo had the charges against them, in relation to this matter, dismissed since the prosecution had failed to prove essential evidence of the charge and that its witnesses had been discredited under cross-examination.
When the charge was first brought before the courts, Hassan, De Souza-Madramootoo, Hanniel Madramootoo, his brother Phillip Madramootoo, and his friend Ramkissoon, were all named as defendants in the matter. However, the matter proceeded against the first two, and not the others since the others could not be located.
The audit, which resulted in the present charges before the courts, was one of several commissioned under the new APNU+AFC administration in 2015. It had recommended a police investigation into the substandard work done during the construction of the GMC Head Office by the Trinidad-based contracting company. It also recommended that its principals be charged and barred from executing projects for the new government.
It found that the company won the bid for a contract, worth almost $24 million, for the construction of a new building for GMC’s Head Office and Guyana Shop. Later, on February 10, 2012, the contract was amended, to include an additional $7,620,984, for which there had been no tender.
Shortly after the contract was amended, the contractor announced to the GMC that he would be unable to complete the project. As a result, the auditor said it was unclear how much money had been paid to Constantine Engineering.
The report said that within months of the handover of the building, the roof was leaking and a contractor had to be brought in to effect repairs. It was also discovered that “old lumber and old zinc sheets with euroband had been used to construct the roof of the building,” the report said. It noted that the Bill of Quantities of the contract for the construction of the office building had stipulated that greenheart lumber was to be used for the floors, walls and frames, and PVC for the two ceilings of the building.
However, it was later observed that mixed hardwood, including “second quality lumber” had been used for the walls, and although much cheaper plywood had been used for constructing the ceiling, the same $2,000 per square metre rate as that of PVC panels, had been charged.
It was stated that it was the ministry’s engineer who had certified the payment vouchers for the plywood and the report noted that there had been no amendment for this material to be used in the construction.
As a result, the auditor recommended that the police be called in “to investigate the fraud of using incorrect materials and fraudulent billing for the construction of the building.”
It was recommended that since it was the engineer who had certified the payments, “he should be charged criminally and brought before the courts for his participation in conducting fraud against the Government of Guyana.”
Auditors had also said they had found no trace of the existence of the company, whose address had been given as #55 Calcutta Road #2 Freeport, Carapichaima, Trinidad.