Is SARA living in a bubble?

first_imgDear Editor,Several media houses reported that “SARA was awaiting additional information from Teixeira on signing bonus complaint” or similar such words. All reported that this emanated from the Deputy Director of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), 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 16, 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. The Public Health Ministry’s $620 million purchase of drugs and medical supplies without any recourse to the procurement process;2. The Public Health Ministry’s 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 Public Procurement Commission and its report was sent to the Special Organised Crime Unit by me to bring criminal charges against the subject Minister and a copy was shared with SARA);5. The Petroleum Production Sharing Agreement with Exxon in 2016;6. The US$18 million 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 Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMAA) identified in the 2016 Auditor General ReportI received a reply from the Director of SARA, Dr Thomas, on April 19, 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 21, 2018, in which l made additional complaints which “fall squarely in your remit: –1. 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 second Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge of the APNU/AFC coalition.2. 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 Viola Burnham and widow of President Forbes Burnham in D’Urban Backlands.3. 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 favourable to investors by international standards,” as stated in the International Monetary Fund 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 [which] 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 falls into that stated goal.On June 5, 2018, Dr Thomas responded to my April 16, 2018, letter in which he listed 6 of the 7 cases l referred to, excluding the US$18 million 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 15, 2018, to Dr Thomas advising that the information l referred to in my letters were all publicly available. Further, l 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 anyone from SARA until l saw Heath-Retmeyer’s comment today.What information is SARA waiting on with regards to the US$18 million signature bonus? The letter from the Finance Ministry to the Bank of Guyana advising it to deposit the US$18 million 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$18 million 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 $260 million in 2018 and $285 million 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$18 million? 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?Sincerely,Gail Teixeiralast_img read more