Harmon confident in transparency on D’urban Park project; calls critics’ statements “unfortunate”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2016, 16:31 by Denis Chabrol

by Derwayne Wills

Even as critics challenge the David Granger administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability, State Minister Joseph Harmon is adamant government has maintained transparency “throughout” their time in office.

Recently in the National Assembly, Opposition MP Juan Edghill laid a parliamentary motion calling for the government to come clean on the financial arrangements of the D’Urban Park Jubilee Project, the final cost of which remains unknown.

When Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson addressed the National Assembly last Monday, he revealed a special purpose company, named Homestretch Development Inc, was responsible for the work done on D’Urban Park from November 2015 to April 2016.

The company, according to documents released by PPP MP and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, was only certified in January 2016 with Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine named as a Director of the Board.

“Minister [Roopnaraine] is responsible for education, and culture, and the idea was that that park would develop in time for the 50th anniversary,” Harmon said when asked why the Education Minister was named on the company’s certification as a Board Director.

Special purpose companies are part of the public-private arrangement for infrastructural development.

One of the more notorious was Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), which was the special purpose company responsible for the Georgetown Marriott Hotel, which was built using some US$100M of taxpayers’ money.

Minister Harmon, while in Opposition as his party’s representative for public infrastructure, had in 2013 come against the special purpose company for the Marriott Hotel.

According to Harmon then, “the non-disclosure of information relating to the investor, their profile, their source of funds and the payment terms and other arrangements indicate the contempt with which the Guyanese nation is being treated.” Harmon was at the time referring to the secrecy of the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration.

Such a transaction, according to Harmon in 2013, “clearly shows the continuing lack of transparency, behind-the-door secret deals involving the then Head of the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington and unknown investors.” NICIL is government’s holding company for a range of assets.

Asked today whether he was concerned about statements from critics that his government has engaged in the same tactics as the former administration, Minister Harmon responded, “I would say that’s an unfortunate comment for them to make.”

“There is no controversy,” Harmon told Demwaves. “The PPP is making it a controversy. The problem with them is that they have spent over 179M on that place and left it in bush. We took that place over and we converted it into something that could be used for a very long time for a great number of Guyanese.”

He challenged statements made recently by Opposition MP Edghill that D’Urban Park was being utilized by vagrants. Harmon said a number of church and youth organisations currently use the space.