by Zena Henry
Former Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Irfaan Ali has denied statements by government that little documentation exist to support the spending of some $100m in that ministry’s Rural Development Fund (RDF) project.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon made the claim at Cabinet’s press briefing Wednesday July 8, but Ali says that the government needs to look again.
Harmon said that Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin brought to Cabinet’s attention that inconsistencies existed in relation to the RDF.
It was explained that the RDF was approved in the 2014 budget and it was a fund managed by the then Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce. Harmon said $1B had been placed in this fund to create employment in rural communities such as Wakenaam and Leguan, among others. Wakenaan and Leguan had to see the building of plantain factories and call centres.
“But what was amazing,” Harmon said, “Was that at the 30 June 2015, over $20m had been spent on a building at Wakenaam and a further $33.6m is still to be spent on it,” while the buildings at Leguan; at least $24.7m spent.
“What was most important,” Harmon claimed, “Was that the Minister of Business … was looking for proposals and documents that had to do with these projects… but of course he couldn’t find anything.”
“How could they say that?” was Ali’s response. “This document was approved in Parliament,” the former Minister submitted. He told Demerara Waves that the then opposition supported the project which was handled at the national level.
Ali said the procurement process was done by the National Tender Board while other forms of advertising were done nationally. Ali, who only last week had cause to defend against claims that his former ministry was paying for fuel for private persons, advised that government request the necessary information from the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, “or check with Tender Board, they would have the records.”
Harmon said however that the projects have been put on pause so that the Guyana Marketing Corporation, the Ministry of Agriculture and other elements within the Ministry of Business could conduct “a very serious review of the monies spent under this project.”
He said, “The fact of the matter is there seem to be very little documentation for these large sums of money that have been spent on these projects and which of course is incomplete.” Harmon said the project will be checked to see whether it is feasible and whether it is serving its purpose.