….but Ramotar says “NICIL has not done anything illegal”
Head of State, Donald Ramotar, says that he has not ruled out any review of the transaction undertaken by the Bharrat Jagdeo administration with Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII) which is headed by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop.
That transaction was handled primarily by Winston Brassington of the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Ltd (NICIL) for which former Head of the Guyana Office for Investment (Go Invest), Geoff Da Silva, had admitted that a mistake was made in relation to concessions granted to QAII.
The Head of State made the announcement during his second press engagement since his accession to office. The venue was Office of the President
Ramotar also defended the actions of NICIL over the years. “NICIL has not done anything illegal….nothing illegal.”
NICIL has come in for attacks over the way in which it conducts its business and for not immediately transferring the funds accumulated to the nation’s coffers.
Its Head, Brassington, stated recently that he did nothing wrong while at the helm of the holding company.
Brassington in his missive to the media, following critical press reports, said, “I have done my job with honesty and integrity and can stand up to whatever scrutiny is brought to bear.”
In 2008 when the illegality of the QAII deal was exposed, Geoff Da Silva said, “We made a mistake…We thought it was covered in law.”
The forum at which Da Silva made the revelation was “Guyana’s Privatisation and Taxation Policies and Practices” organised by the administration, in retaliation to comments made by local businessman, Dr. Yesu Persaud.
Dr. Persaud had said that concessions similar to those granted to QAII should be given to other local companies. This attracted a sharp response from none other than the then Head of State, Bharrat Jagdeo.
The Alliance for Change has demanded a parliamentary probe into the affairs of NICIL.
Its Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan is on record as saying that NICIL has directly and indirectly participated in Government transactions worth tens of billions of dollars. “The magnitude of this company’s dealings, in so much stealth, and even in sin, makes it all the more necessary for the truth to be delivered to the public.”
Adding that NICIL has become the vehicle of choice for many of the government’s “improper” financial transactions, Ramjattan said that its Board of Directors is made up almost entirely of Ministers of Government and is chaired by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh.
NICIL was also at the centre of the “shenanigans to get the financing to build the Berbice River Bridge. Financing that has caused the NIS to face the real prospect of the loss of $5B. It also waived some half a billion dollars in interest from the bridge company so that the private investors in the bridge company could be paid. It was also at the centre of the RUSAL sell-out and the disposal of government and GuySuCo properties.”
Former Finance Minister Carl Greenidge was one of the principals involved in the establishment of NICIL .
Greenidge reminded that NICIL was established under his tenure as Finance Minister, “and the things I see it doing were never intended to be part of the activities.”
He spoke of the taking of state assets which it is charged to manage and oversee as a holding company, and not as an operating entity that is buying and selling land.
“NICIL was established not to privatise anything but to manage State assets that were left over from the privatisation or which resulted from the privatisation.”
Greenidge explained that when the assets were transferred during the privatization period there were residual assets such as land and properties for which it was NICIL’s responsibility to sit on the boards (where applicable) of new entities and to act as trustee of the assets.
He said that one of NICIL’s roles was also to assist the Minister of Finance in formulating policy on how the assets would be managed.
Greenidge was adamant that NICIL was “not envisaged as a slush fund or an entity to hand over state assets to friends, cronies and associates of the PPP party or anyone else…It was supposed to be managing assets in a manner consistent with the national interest.”
The former Finance Minister was also adamant that APNU will be pushing for an investigation of all NICIL’s operations, and especially in relation to the disposal of assets in the time of Jagdeo’s Presidency.
According to the entity’s website “NICIL was incorporated as a company under the Companies Act Chapter 89:01 on the 18th July, 1990, but did not begin to function as a Company until the appointment and assumption of duty of the Executive Director on the 15th July, 1991.”
The primary objectives of the company “NICIL” were that of subscribing for, taking or otherwise acquiring and holding the Government shares, stocks, debentures or other securities of any company, co-operatives societies or body corporate.
This meant that all Government shareholdings in public corporations and companies including those falling under the Public Corporations Secretariat and the Co-operative Finance Administration Institutions were to be transferred to NICIL.
Effective January 1, 2002 a Management Co-operation Agreement was signed, appointing the Privatisation Unit (PU) as exclusive manager of NICIL. It was agreed that the collecting and accounting of privatisation proceeds, rents, dividends and other income of the combined entity will be done in the name of NICIL.