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Controversy over Phillip Mozart Thomas’ debt to Guyana Int’l Conference Centre

Phillip Mozart Thomas

Controversy has erupted over exactly how civil society activist Phillip Mozart Thomas owes the government-owned Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) for hosting the Civil Society Summit there last month, after a bank refused to honour his cheque.

Government claims that Thomas owes GYD$4 million for use of the facility at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara on December 17 and that “appropriate steps” will be taken to claim the amount. 

Speaking toDemerarawaves on Wednesday,Thomas, Chairman of the Guyana National Council on Public Policy (GNCPP), said that the cheque bounced because he froze the account following adverse statements made by the Office of the President on December 15th.

The statement, he says, caused some donors to back out or express concern thatdonations they made to GNCPP would be traced via the account. Thomas said he froze the account to prevent this. He further said that he is not delinquent in paying his bill, but that the ICC’s management is yet to send him the bill.

Thomassays thathebooked the ICC for the 17th -19th of December and that documents requiring  conflicting amounts, one billing him $5million and the other billing him $4.2million were sent to him. Neither is accurate, he says, as they bill him for three day usage of the ICC and other services he did not use since he ended up using the ICC on the 17th alone.

The ICC is offering a different story. Its management says Thomas’s initial bill was approximately $6.6million for the three days, of which he was required to make a 50%down payment and pay the remaining amount 15:00hrs on the 17th. Demerarawaves has seen an ICC cheque receipt for $3.3 million dated December 16thmade out to Thomas which the ICC says was the 50% down payment. Thomas says he was never given a bill to that amount.

He confirmed making the down payment though, saying that on the day before the summit ICC General Manager NankumarRamdialinsisted he be given “a form of payment to hold on to,” after he allegedly heard that the donor who was supposed to be financing the renting of the ICC was no longer doing this. He said that he cut the cheque but that the ICC was not supposed to deposit it until other details were worked out. Demerarawaves was told by ICC managerial staff yesterday that neither Ramdial nor the ICC accountants knew of such an arrangement. The cheque was cashed on the very day the summit commenced.

The ICC says Thomas’ initial bill was eventually lowered to$4.2 million after factoring in several concessions, and that he was informed that he was required to pay what was left after the down payment .Thomas maintains that the bill needs to be adjusted as says and the adjusted amount will be paid as soon as it is sent. The ICC though, is saying that the GNCPP must pay the full cost since Thomas did not give official notice that he was no longer using the facility on the 18th and 19thand therefore breached his contract.As a defense to this Thomas is saying that by issuing the statement that it did government frustrated the purpose of the summit which it, through the ICC, agreed to allow him to hold thereby undermining his purpose for entering into the contract.

He says that On December 15th he received a call from Ramdial informing him that there was a problem with the ICC’s air-conditioning and electrical system and that an alternate venue should be considered. On the same day he said Ramdial called again telling him a pipe had burst and that the ICC was without running water. Thomas though, said that he was providing porta potties and portable air conditioning units and that he would go ahead and used the ICC. By 9:30 on the 16th, Thomas says Ramdial called him and said all would be ready for the summit.