Skeldon Factory and Marriot Hotel; financial mistakes or something else?
DPI/GINA, Guyana, Sunday, June 11, 2017
With the millions misspent by the previous government, increasingly being brought to the fore, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said it is obvious that some of the actions taken by the previous Government, “were more than just mistakes”, and those responsible should be made to account for them. He shared his views during a recent interview with DPI/GINA.
The Finance Minister pointed out that Government is now saddled with a large debt despite putting a large amount of equity. He added it was only a few weeks ago that government was forced to “take over Republic Bank’s debt of US$17.7M to repay because the Atlantic Hotel Incorporated (AHI) is broke and doesn’t have any money to pay. We are also saddled with another debt of Guy$5.3B that we have got to look for, we don’t know where from, to fix a whole set of defects in the hotel, if we want to keep the international brand of the hotel. Where does that money come from? Taxpayers,” the minister asked rhetorically.
The Skeldon Factory, Minister Jordan noted, could have been constructed for several million US dollars less but this was not done. He explained, “The fact remains it cost us over $US200M and another $US60 to 60 M to try to fix it, and it never worked. Today it is not fixed and the reality is that it has never functioned.” He insisted, “That is not a mistake. That is more than a mistake.”
The Minister also referenced that in 2016, government also had to finance a debenture for the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). NIS will receive a total of $5.6B from the Government as compensation for the financial loss suffered as a result of an investment made in the now bankrupt Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO). Cabinet had given the go-ahead to repay the NIS through non-negotiable debenture certificates. The repayment would be made over a 20-year period at a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent per annum, the principal sum being four billion, eight hundred and eighty-two million, four hundred and forty-six thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine dollars ($4,882,446,199).
These were just some of the multi-billion dollar mistakes made by the two previous Governments, Minister Jordan said, “Do you know what we could have done with that money? That’s not even counting the money that we are pouring into GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation). We’re looking for all the considerable expertise to fix GuySuCo”. Government is examining several offers from the private sector and the Minister expressed optimism that they, “can find a way out.”
These are financial issues that must be taken to account, particularly by the public, the Finance Minister stated, “Especially when you see certain people going at press conferences every week, you know mouthing off. These are some of the questions, I feel you guys should be able to ask them and press for them to account for what has been done to us as a country!”
Since taking office, Government has instructed that independent audits be conducted to ascertain the true financial state of agencies and ministries. These audits have revealed several cases of financial impropriety and unaccounted for state owned assets. The Guyana Police Force with assistance from the State Asset Recovery Unit(SARU) and Special Organised Crime UniI (SOCU), have instituted charges against those found liable, even as investigations continue into the affairs of ministries and agencies, prior to 2015.
By: Paul McAdam