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Amerindian Affairs Ministry PS will not shut out anyone; Govt wants greater control of funds

Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai with Amerindian protesters recently outside Parliament Building

Even as Permanent Secretary of the Amerindian Affairs Ministry, Nigel Dharamlall seeks to assure Amerindians that they will not be shut out of his office, government is seeking to have greater control of funding being managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“My job is to have an open-door policy to anyone who comes to then ministry,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Dharamlall had said that he would bar Toshaos or senior councillors who represented government’s Community Development Project as a UNDP Project from entering his office and their stipends would have been taken away. Reeling from the controversy that has erupted from his comments, the Permanent Secretary assured that “I seriously cannot and will not do that and my role is to accept anyone who comes to my office.

Under that US$3 million agreement, Norway deposits payments for forest preservation services in an account at the World Bank and all payments for projects are made directly to Amerindian communities by the UNDP in keeping with its rules of accountability.

Dharamlall conceded that his remarks “might have been a bit tasteless” but insisted that they were taken out of context as he was merely emphasising the need for transparency and accountability between Government’s Amerindian Development Programme (ADP) and one being financed with cash from Norway.

But sources in the international donor community have told Demerara Waves Online News that Dharamlall’s posture is rooted in government’s determination to take control of the UNDP-managed project.

The sources in the international donor community disagreed with Dharamlall’s assertion that government was paying UNDP to implement the project. The sources explained that the 8 percent to which the Permanent Secretary referred is a global general management services fee for project implementation. “This is not a government of Guyana implementation fee. The eight percent does not short-change the country,” said the sources.

The sources said the Guyana government has been strenuously trying to muscle its way to take control of the funds but this has been resisted to date. According to the sources, the Government has pushed the UNDP to agree that the next project cycle of US$5 million would be managed by jointly managed out of a secretariat at the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

Government has insisted that the Community Development Plans, as designed and executed by the Amerindian villages are implemented by the government through the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs/ UNDP.  Dharamlall has said that he was clarifying that the CDPs were not entirely a UNDP project per se and so villagers should not refer to it as such.

He has said that some villagers continue to wrongly describe the CDPs by attributing the funding to UNDP. Instead, he said he had wanted them to know better since their villagers are the ones that conceived the projects and the funding has been sourced from the Government.