PRESS STATEMENT By the People’s National Congress Reform To The Press Conference on Thursday April 17, 2003 In the Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia.



EASTER GREETINGS: As we approach the Easter Season, the PNCR joins with the Christian Community in the celebration of the Risen Christ. We take this opportunity to send out Easter Greetings to all Guyanese and our wishes for renewed hope which the Risen Christ exemplifies.

THE DETERIORATING SECURITY SITUATION:

Evolving events and trends continue to expose the fragility of the security framework being managed by the PPP/C regime. As always the PNCR extends sympathy to all those who lost loved ones or were hapless victims of the present crime wave. The Party has already issued a release on the kidnapping of Mr. Stephen Lesniak of the United States Embassy and reiterates that this incident, in particular, has further tainted the already tarnished image of Guyana and can, if mismanaged, adversely affect relations with the United States and our friends abroad.

Regrettably the crime wave continues to run unimpeded taking whatever course it chooses. We have now had to suffer the ignominy of having foreign security personnel arrive in Guyana to do our job for us; a matter which Guyanese should not take lightly.

The PNCR repeats its assertion that until such time that the regime is serious about tackling the root causes and drivers of crime in Guyana we will continue to suffer from the sharp edge of the criminal’s sword. The PPP/C must demonstrate an ability to tackle the big fishes and phantoms; to respect and uphold the rule of law; to cease to exercise political control over the police force and to resist the urge to micro manage its every activity. It is for these reasons as well that the need for a comprehensive review of crime fighting and policing in Guyana is imperative. The PNCR hopes that the long awaited inquiry will soon be realized.


THE LINDEN CRISIS:

The PNC Reform has noted the positive response of President Bharrat Jagdeo to the PNC Reform Party’s Leader initiative with respect to salvaging the situation in Linden. Mr. Jagdeo accepted Mr. Corbin’s invitation to visit the community to inform residents and stakeholders of Government’s effort to resolve the crisis facing the mining town. It is regrettable that he could not have visited earlier to have a full understanding of the gravity of the problems facing the Bauxite Community; problems which were brought to his attention by the late Mr. Hugh Desmond Hoyte some time ago.

The PNC Reform has noted the number of promises made to the people of Linden by Mr. Jagdeo, including co-management of the Linden TV and $50M for road rehabilitation. Government’s commitment to these promises will be monitored and the PNC Reform will be very vigilant in this regard.

The PNC Reform has also noted that President Jagdeo has accepted the need for the formulation of a Comprehensive Development Plan for Linden. The need to involve the community in this process is an absolute requirement. However, the PNCR warns the government against attempts to manipulate and undermine the duly elected Regional Democratic Council by PPP/C operatives. Such efforts will be counterproductive. The speedy engagement of competent professionals to assist in the development plan will go a long way towards advancing the process. The PNC Reform stands ready to be involved in the effort for the formulation and implementation of the Comprehensive Development Plan for Region No. 10.

Despite the few piecemeal measures, which are likely, to be delivered through the Corbin Initiative, the fundamental issues of the collapse of the water and electricity services have not been resolved. The President has finally admitted that he is unable to guarantee an early end to the crisis and has promised a permanent solution by July 31, 2003. To date all the various efforts for short term solutions have been at best unreliable and can be only be described as a comedy of errors.

The previous premature announcements by the government and misleading information in some newspapers, of an end to the crisis, were worrying developments in our political life. Unprofessional behavior and outright deceit clouded the episode of the three generators transported to Linden for emergency relief. It was known by GPL and the authorities that these units were not in working order. The exercise was therefore a blatant attempt to mislead the people of Linden, but they remained resolute and were not fooled.

The government’s effort to resolve the water crisis has also delivered no genuine relief. This lack of progress is unacceptable. The government has the resources, and must do everything to ensure a speedy and permanent solution. The people of Linden will accept no less. President Jagdeo must accept full responsibility or dismiss Minister Baksh for his hopeless failure to implement decisions made since 2002.

The genesis of this crisis requires explanation. For many years, the PNC Reform had repeatedly pointed to the numerous problems facing the people of Linden but the government refused to act. Instead, the government failed to effectively monitor the plans left in place by the previous PNC government to upgrade the industry for privatization. For years, the government did nothing about the industry leaving it to languish and deteriorate. The government then sidelined and later bypassed the Joint Committee set up by President Jagdeo and Mr. Hoyte to oversee the future of the Bauxite Industry and President Jagdeo made unilateral decisions to privatize the Company with Cambior. Only the government knows the details of this deal with Omai and one is left to wonder if it is in the best interest of Guyana. Since then, the government revealed its hand by agreeing to the dismissal of all of the workers at Linmine without the necessary safety nets. The present crisis is part of the effects of such short sighted decisions.

Government’s disproportionately inadequate budgetary allocation of resources to Region No. 10 and its ill conceived handling of the privatization of the Linden Power Company compounded the crisis and increased the hardships experienced by the people of Linden as basic infrastructure deteriorated and the standard of living plummeted. Yet, the government showed no compassion. It is disgraceful that despite the European Commission offered money for the improvement of water supply situation at Blue Berry Hill the Government failed to submit the necessary proposals promptly so that today the people’s of Blue Berry Hill still suffer from the absence of water. Is this a case of incompetence or is it an act of a government that refuses to govern for all of the people?

It is clear that the government’s actions and lack of action in other areas created this crisis. Repeated calls by various stakeholders were not heeded and the situation was left to deteriorate. Why must the government only act under pressure? Why did they wait for social unrest to disrupt economic activities before they acted? It would appear that the government has a sadistic streak for self inflicted “wounds” which are proving to be very detrimental to the country. The nation cannot afford the crisis in Linden. It cannot afford to have thousands of its citizens going without basic services for weeks, it cannot afford disruption to economic activities, it cannot afford the general atmosphere of uncertainty this crisis has caused nor can it afford the emerging criminal elements who are attempting to take advantage of the crisis. The PNC Reform calls on the government to act decisively to bring relief to the people of Linden so that the social situation can return to normal thereby allowing the resumption of much needed economic activities.

THE GUYANA POWER & LIGHT:
The PNCR notes with great concern and distress the recent appointment of Mr. Ronald Alli as Chairman of the Guyana Power and Light. Mr. Alli was one of the two directors appointed to represent the Government of Guyana on the Board of the GPL when the GEC was privatized. To the best of the PNCR's knowledge he actively participated in the formulation of policy and approved policy initiatives of the CDC/ESBI partners. He cannot therefore escape responsibility for the fiasco in our electricity situation and must share in the blame for the failure of GPL. Against this background how can the government justify appointing the said gentleman to rectify the many problems which were not solved under his previous watch.

THE HEALTH SECTOR
In July 2002, in monitoring the health sector, we were astonished at the amount of corruption taking place in that sector at the most senior level. In August 2002 we brought to public attention a number of the corrupt and highly irregular acts by the Minister of Health and the Chief Executive Officer of the GPHC. After our exposé, we also pointed out to the public that the Minister, Mr. Leslie Ramsammy, had let fly an enormous amount of twaddle on his corrupt acts. We were flabbergasted by the dishonest and dull-witted mouthing of Mr. Ramsammy in relation to the public knowledge of his corrupt practices. Further, we were appalled by a statement on television made by Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo in defense of Mr. Ramsammy that he understood that the money was for an autopsy. We confirmed that Mr. Ramsammy took the money for personal use and not to “give employees whose salaries were delayed” as he claimed on public television or to “pay for an autopsy” as President Jagdeo claimed.

We called for an inquiry by the Board of the GPHC and the department of the Auditor General. The Auditor General’s Special report dated 11 March 2003 has been made available and we should like to share the findings with you. In general, it acknowledges the facts and our exposé. The report states in its conclusions on this investigation:

“The investigation confirmed the allegation made by the former DFS. Dr. Ramsammy was not an employee of the GPHC nor was he a member of the Board. Therefore, it was improper for him to be granted an advance from the funds of the GPHC. Moreover, the advance was of a personal nature, that is, to meet school fees for his son. Public funds are not to be used to finance personal affairs of employees much less those who are not employees. In addition, the CEO should have refused Dr. Ramsammy on those grounds.

Further, having received the advance he failed to keep his promise, which was to repay the advance on receipt of his allowances. In fact, he had to be reminded that he had an outstanding liability to the GPHC before he repaid it.”

The report recommends that all advances must be in connection with the work of the institution and must be properly authorized before issue. In addition, advances must only be issued to employees of the GPHC.

On the CEO, of the GPHC, Mr. Michael Khan, the audit findings revealed “that he sold some items (itemized last year) and with the exception of the washing machine and book case, were transported from the home of Mr. Khan to Room 16 which is a vacant apartment in the Doctor’s Quarters at Waterloo Street. The washing machine was taken to lot 11 Echilibar Villas and the book case taken to the hospital library.”

The report concludes that “the CEO committed an irregular practice by selling his personal items to the Corporation. He used his authority as CEO to dispose of used items and to sell them to the GPHC at a cost of $112,000. In addition, the items were not required by the Corporation and were placed in a vacant apartment. With the exception of the washing machine, which was taken to an occupied apartment, it is doubtful whether the Corporation received value for the sums expended. It is a sad state of affairs when the CEO of a Public Corporation can resort to such practices. As mentioned above the CEO repaid the full sum in cash on the 20 August 2002. However, the improper act had already been committed.”

The report continues: “In relation to the use of motor car PDD3135, from information available, it is evident that the CEO had almost full use of the vehicle during the entire period that it was with the GPHC. Once a vehicle is made available for his personal use the allowance cannot be paid to him.

(On the television set,) the CEO admitted to the use of the television set purchased for the GPHC. However, this was an abuse of his authority to remove assets from the GPHC without first ensuring that the asset was brought to account in the stores records. This is (a) very serious breach of procedures by such a senior official of the GPHC.

In relation to the payment of salary by the GPHC of the driver of the Minister, this is an untidy arrangement and should be remedied urgently. The evidence disclosed that the Minister was overpaid the chauffeur allowance since May 2001... The unsatisfactory arrangement should be corrected. In view of the letter issued by the CEO seconding the driver to the Ministry of Health, as a general rule, his salary and allowance should be met by the Ministry of Health. In addition, the Minister of Health was paid a chauffeur allowance for which he was not entitled to since a driver of the GPHC was assigned to him during the period he received the allowance.”

The PNCR is pleased that the Auditor General’s office carried out the investigation so that the public has no doubt in its mind about the corrupt and irregular practices done by the Minister of Health and his cohort, the CEO of the GPHC. It is time now to see how the President will act. Mr. Ramsammy said publicly that he will continue to break the rules and it is up to the President to fire him. Well, Mr. Jagdeo the ball is in your court let us see what you do with it now.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana.
Thursday April 17, 2003.