Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2016, 11:10 by Denis Chabrol
Despite the Guyana government’s assurances that it was preparing to cut short the “undesirable” rental of a pharmaceutical bond from a city businessman, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall plans to file legal action to scrap the deal.
Nandlall said that in the first instance that the contract between the Ministry of Health and Linden Holdings, a company under the directorship of Lawrence “Larry” Singh, is illegal in the first place on several grounds. “My position is that the contract is unlawful and an unlawful contract must not stand,” Nandlall, an executive member of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) told Demerara Waves Online News.
Asked why push ahead with legal action if government has recognised it has erred and allow the administration some space and time to take legal action, he said “there is only one remedial action that is available and that is to end the unlawful act.” He questioned if the government needs a year to find somewhere else to rent or lease, the taxpayer must “endure” GYD$12.5 million per month. “The government should terminate the contract and apologise to the public. That is the redeeming thing to do,” he said.
Nandlall’s client, Majeed Hussain, has given Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Trevor Thomas until Tuesday, September 13, 2016 to annul the deal or he would challenge it in the High Court. Nandlall said the bond tenancy agreement was inked outside of and in violation of the Procurement Act because the rental is above the legal threshold. “It is as if the contract never occurred so the question of breach of contract cannot arise. One cannot sue for breach of a contract that is tainted with illegality,” he said. He added that the contract was entered into by a public officer, using public law functions, for the improper use of public funds. The Attorney-at-Law argued that the building was purchased for GYD$25 million and is being rented to government for GYD$12.5 million per month. “The law will never countenance such an exercise of indiscretion. That is an abuse of power,” he said.
The lawyer further contended that the property that is being rented as a bond is a “professional office space” rather than somewhere that is fit and proper for the storage of pharmaceuticals in accordance with internationally recognised standards. “There is no way that that facility can ever be suitable for the purpose of storing drugs so you are going to expose the people of this country to a public health disaster,” he said.
Contrary to initial assurances that government was satisfied that the facility located at 29 Sussex Street, Albouystown, Georgetown met key required international benchmarks for the storage of drugs, Nandlall countered saying that the temperature would be unsuitable.
Nandlall, who served as Attorney General up to May, 2016 when the PPP lost power, said the tenancy agreement erroneously refers to the Ministry of Health as a statutory body corporate. Instead, he said the contract should have been between Linden Holding and the Government of Guyana or an agency or organ of the State that has a “corporate personality and has the capacity to contract.”
The former Minister of Legal Affairs said the government’s latest public position that the agreement is “undesirable” was merely a half-hearted response to public pressure and outcry. “This government is shifting its position based on public criticisms,” at one time said it would continue with the contract.”
Singh, the former head of the flopped Tropical Airways airline in the mid-1980s, is also the owner of Midtown Restaurant and Hotel at a property on Middle Street, Georgetown that once housed Ariantze Hotel and Sidewalk Café.
No one including government ministers, Joseph Harmon, Raphael Trotman and George Norton, could say who told Singh that government needed to rent a pharmaceutical bond. Singh is a member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the largest and most influential party in the David Granger-led coalition administration.