Wednesday, 22 May 2013
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As an additional boost to mobile fleet... Police g... » THE Guyana Police Force (GPF), yesterday, received...
High tide warning in effect - more sandbags aligne... » THE Ministry of Public Works has issued a warning ...
OPR to probe Shaka Chase torture allegations - Roh... » MINISTER of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee yesterday ...
Granger’s associate fingered in U.S. corruption ... » A FORMER member of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) ...
AFC Councilor rebuffs party shenanigans …says Ra... » “THE budget cuts are unconscionable and unconsti...
Over 1, 500 laptops given out in Region 4 - as OL... » WITH a total of 28,000 laptops already in the hand...
BOSAI rents 3 diesel gensets to bolster Linden ele... » THE BOSAI Minerals Group (Guyana) Inc yesterday ac...
|The NICIL intrigue continues with televised debate on NCN…|
|Wednesday, 23 May 2012 00:45|
Brassington accuses Kaieteur News, Opposition critics of engaging in
- and ‘pulling figures from thin air’
AMID the malicious, grossly exaggerated and wholly unsubstantiated claims, allegations and criticisms including that of widespread corruption at the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), the Government last night sought, again, to set the records straight and defend the state-run holdings company, this time via a live televised debate between members of the government and the Opposition on the National Communications Network (NCN). NICIL’s CEO Mr. Winston Brassington, who has faced the brunt of these corruption allegations, came out firing on all cylinders during the limited time he had, accusing the privately owned and perceived opposition-aligned newspaper, the Kaieteur News, as well as columnist and Chartered Accountant Mr. Christopher Ram , of engaging in ‘jumbie arithmetic’ and ‘pulling figures from thin air’.
“I call it jumbie arithmetic (because) I can’t see where the numbers are adding up,” Brassington declared.
“It’s mindboggling…it’s like pulling figures from thin air,” he chided.
The debate was initiated by the administration after the opposition had been accusing Brassington of corruption at NICIL. The government extended invitations to AFC chairman Khemraj Ramjattan, AFC Member of Parliament Moses Nagamootoo, Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram and Kaieteur News publisher Glenn Lall. Both Ramjattan and Nagamootoo were a ‘no show’ on the programme. The government was represented by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, NICIL’S CEO Winston Brassington and Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon.
During the debate last night, Dr. Singh noted that NICIL has been the subject of considerable public debate in recent days and weeks and, in his own “estimation,considerable misinformation, misrepresentation and misinterpretation”.
The Finance Minister, however, made it pellucid that NICIL has, over the years, performed an “extremely important role” and in more recent times, has played an important role in catalyzing important investments in and for Guyana.
Dr. Singh said he has “no doubt in (his) mind” that NICIL has discharged its obligations in a most commendable manner.
A brief background presented by Dr. Singh indicated that the company was incorporated in 1990 and served as a holding company for government’s equity investments in other companies. In 2002, a Management Co-operation Agreement was signed appointing the Privatisation Unit (PU) as exclusive manager of NICIL, for the collecting and accounting of privatisation proceeds, rents, dividends and other income of the combined entity would be done in the name of NICIL.
Clarifying his interest in NICIL, Ram stated that he had requested a copy of the Management Co-operation Agreement which he did not receive, along with NICIL accounts for 2006 to 2011. He referred to this as tardiness in supplying financial information.
Dr. Luncheon said since he had received the request between 15.00 hrs to 16.00 hrs yesterday after the weekly Cabinet meeting, he had informed Ram that the information would be provided to him as soon as possible.
Dr. Luncheon added that there is need to pinpoint the issues and give explanations after the misinformation and misinterpretation published by the private media. He made specific reference to the Kaieteur News which carried articles which he considered “scandalous and libelous”.
The publication by the newspaper that NICIL has $50B which should be paid into the Consolidated Fund was denied by the company and Lall was asked whether he had any way to substantiate what his paper published. He stated that the information came from the politicians.
“Kaieteur News was not responsible for that, that came out of the mouth of the politicians. Like who I am, the publisher, we are only the vehicle for what the politicians say,” Lall said.
This answer was met with a sharp response by Dr. Luncheon who declared: “I don’t believe you can escape criticism as a publisher by just carrying it and saying it came from the mouth of politicians – I think this is clearly unsuitable for a publicist, particularly from one that has, over time, attempted to convey that it’s a search for the truth that motivates the leadership, the editors and such like at Kaieteur News…”.
Dr. Luncheon also pointed out that the opposition panelists have played quite a significant role in bringing to the public attention “quite a bit of misinformation and misinterpretation” on the whole NICIL intrigue.
To this, Christopher Ram said he doesn’t think it is a blunder, but an absence of information. Dr. Singh rebutted Ram’s assertion, pointing out that “the absence of that management corporation agreement or indeed, the absence of any other particular piece of information has not prevented those who have chosen to comment on this matter from commenting in a very definitive manner”.
“They haven’t said that we would like to see this information in order to arrive at an informed conclusion,” Dr. Singh posited.
“I disagree completely with the suggestion that an absence of information is what led to this reckless speculation by the AFC about this $50B…it is absurdity to take the audited consolidated accounts, take consolidated growth revenue and from that figure say that is available in a company”, Dr. Singh stated.
Touching on Ram referring to tardiness in public accounting, the Finance Minister said he is proud of the PPP/C’s track record in government as it relates to bringing public accounts to parliament on time.
Alluding to sentiments expressed earlier in the debate by Ram, who said they don’t have information and this encourages speculation, and Lall who also said that they don’t have information and considers this an affront to journalists and particularly to the “people’s press”, Dr. Luncheon had this to say: “How could we marry this lack of information with the profound statements that are being made day in, day out...I would want to believe that anybody reading the criticisms, anybody reading the stance taken in the Kaieteur News and other critics of not only NICIL but almost anything great that concerns this government, by the hostile press – how could you marry that, the lack of information that you insist is happening with these profound statements that are being made. One would have to believe that even though you don’t get the information from the government or from government sources, you do have this information because on what else could half of what you are publishing be based?”.
Brassington alluded to the fact that there were “lots of personal attacks on my integrity…I have done my job with integrity and honesty …I’m willing to go before to the Economic Services Committee. I have done nothing wrong.”
In wrapping up, Dr. Luncheon stated that while using NICIL as an example, “the way the issue is treated in the media really epitomizes some of the weaknesses and some of the more objectionable practices. Our two colleagues here (Lall and Kaieteur News Editor in Chief Adam Harris) have made the point incessantly tonight that I suspect that they will continue making...’we don’t have information, the government is not forthcoming’…and I would want to make the same point that in the context of this lack of information and lack of forthrightness by this Administration on what basis is this profusion of info about; … it is just poured out and anybody who reads cannot help but believe that these journalists, critics are privy to information, sound information that they are offering to the public and yet they come tonight and sit in front of the public and confront us with the situation ‘we are speculating, we are forced to speculate’.”
In the last two years, over 80 sets of annual reports/audited accounts related to NICIL’s subsidiaries have been laid over to Parliament by the Minister of Finance; and in 2008, NICIL published a booklet on the transparency of all of its privatization, and this booklet is being updated and will be issued very shortly. (See more details of the NICIL debate in tomorrow’s edition)
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