Auditor-General aiming to close D’Urban Park probe by September

Auditor General Deodat Sharma has set a September deadline to complete his investigation of the controversial billion-dollar D’Urban Park Development Project.

When contacted on Thursday, Sharma said that the investigation, which commenced earlier this year, is still ongoing.

He added that he is still working towards completion by September, while noting that fiscal verification and some other activities still have to be done.

As a result of endless questions surrounding the spending associated with the venture, which began soon after the APNU+AFC coalition government took office in May, 2015, the Office of the Auditor General commenced a special audit.

While the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) has provided some information, the Audit Office is yet to hear from Homestretch Development Inc (HDI), the private company that started the project. The office had sent a letter to the address listed for the company requesting specific information. That letter was later returned after apparently not being delivered.  No official from the company has made contact with Sharma or his office.

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 a 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 $1.3 billion has been spent on the project – a large parade ground with wooden stands – and despite this, the National Assembly has been asked to approve millions in extra-budgetary spending to meet additional costs.

State Minister Joseph Harmon had berated Sharma for commenting on the ongoing investigation during an interview with this newspaper.

Sharma had said that he was awaiting some information from HDI before he completed his investigation of the controversial project and that he was awaiting information from the company.

Harmon’s contention was that Sharma ought not to have publically commented and should have reach out to government for the desired information.

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