SARA has not acted on any of these serious complaints even though the requisite information is in the public domain

Dear Editor,

In Monday’s edition, Stabroek News carried a news item headlined `SARA awaiting additional info from Teixeira on signing bonus complaint’.  The statements in the news item were attributed to the Deputy Director of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Mr. Heath-Retmeyer.

For the record, I wrote three letters to the Director of SARA, Dr. Clive Thomas in 2018. I have had no dealings with the Deputy Director.

In the first dated April 16th 2018 l called on SARA to investigate a number of cases which l chronicled with regards to corruption, breach of the procurement laws and wastage of taxpayers monies and state resources:-

1. Ministry of Public Health $620M purchase of drugs and medical supplies without any recourse to the procurement process;

2. The Ministry of Public Health contract for the rental of the Sussex Street House as a Pharmacy Bond without resort to any procurement process;

3. The construction of the Jubilee D’Urban Park facilities costing over $2 Billion with no resort to public procurement. (The Auditor General to date cannot access required documents);

4. The pre-feasibility study of a New Demerara Harbour Bridge in violation of the procurement laws ( this matter was sent to the PPC and its report was sent to SOCU by me to bring criminal charges against the subject Minister  and a copy shared with SARA);

5. The Petroleum Production Sharing Agreement with Exxon in 2016;

6. The $18M USD Signature Bonus deposited in an interest bearing foreign currency account in the Bank of Guyana and not deposited in the Consolidated Fund as required by the constitution nor reflected in the country’s revenue; 

7. Breaches of the FMAA identified in the 2016 Auditor General’s Report/

I received a reply from the Director of SARA, Dr. Thomas on April 19th 2018 in which he acknowledged “receipt of the complaints in your letter. SARA does not and cannot initiate investigations without first receiving a complaint such as yours….”  

I then responded in a 5-page letter dated April 21st 2018, in which l made additional complaints which “fall squarely in your remit:-

The acquisition of a house and land in Bel Air Gardens, then state owned, below market value at that time and with no recourse to any procurement process by the former Minister of Finance of the PNC government and now 2nd Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Carl Greenidge of the APNU+AFC Coalition. .

 The PPP/C government responded to the Burnham family’s request for land and issued 5 acres of prime land in Georgetown at no costs to former Vice President and First Lady Mrs. Viola Burnham and widow of President Forbes Burnham in D’Urban Backlands. 

The acquisition of a huge tract of land to the People’s National Congress for their party headquarters, Congress Place, in Sophia, at no cost and where sections have been sold over the years at market value and for profit, the most recent sale took place after the 2015 general and regional elections.  ….”

“As such, l am now formally laying my complaint with reference to the cases regarding corruption, abuse in public office and violation of the constitution, Procurement Act, and financial laws listed in my letter dated April 16, 2018 and those listed above and call on SARA to investigate them. ….

The most egregious case relates to the sale of our national patrimony in oil and natural gas well below what is observed internationally and “relatively favorable to investors by international standards,” as stated in the IMF report prepared for Guyanese officials. Follow the trail Dr Thomas you will find the answers and the accounts of those who benefitted…..

In closing l note your statement that “ the goal is to repel procurement fraud, stolen state assets, corruption so that Guyanese of all walks of life can be assured their roads, national patrimony, gold and other state assets are used for the betterment of all Guyanese”. In other words all the cases l brought to your attention in my first letter and this follow up fall into that stated goal.”

On June 5th 2018, Dr. Thomas responded to my April 16th, 2018 letter in which he listed  6 of the 7 cases l referred to excluding the $18M USD signature bonus requesting “that any evidence which you might have in relation to any unlawful conduct in this matter be forwarded to us to aid in our consideration and investigation.”

I then responded on June 15th 2018, to Dr. Thomas advising that the information l referred to in my letters were all publicly available. Further l then advised Dr. Thomas where he could find the information with regards to each case. (I have attached a copy of this letter to Dr. Thomas)

That was the last l heard from the Director of SARA, Dr. Thomas, or, any one from SARA until l saw Mr. Heath-Retmeyer’s comment on Monday.

What information is SARA waiting on with regards to the $18M USD signature bonus? The letter from the Ministry of Finance to the Bank of Guyana advising it to deposit the US$18M in an interest bearing foreign currency account was published in the media in December 2017, a year after the government received the money. The US$18M has to date not been deposited in the Consolidated Fund, despite the matter being raised in National Assembly on several occasions and in the media on numerous occasions.

Is SARA living in a bubble? An expensive bubble for the Guyanese taxpayers with budgetary provisions of $260M in 2018 and $285M in 2019, yet the Deputy Director wants to give the public the impression that SARA cannot investigate unless  l, the complainant, provide more information on the US$18M ? This is his response on a serious violation of the Constitution?!

What a pathetic whimper from SARA!

Maybe SARA should first “clean up” its own act. The Act was assented to on May 4, 2017, more than two years ago, yet a Director has not been appointed and approved by the National Assembly within the 4 months of the commencement of the Act.  Or, does SARA need a complaint to be filed and additional information on this matter too?

Yours faithfully,

Gail Teixeira

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