Chief Exeutive Officer of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), Trevor Benn on Friday assured he was not personally involved in any corrupt land transactions, and said police would be called in to probe how unauthorised maps got into the hands of the “gentleman” who displayed them at a news conference a day earlier.
In the presence of senior GLSC officials, he said there was no evidence that the maps were bought and so they were most likely stolen. “We will make a formal report to the police for an investigation to be done,” Benn said. “There is no evidence that they were paid for at this office,” he added.
Benn did not name anyone but rubbished Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s claims that the David Granger-led administration had handed out large swathes of land to persons associated with his government.
In two cases, Benn said Muriel Allen was handed back 2,912 acres that she had been leased in the 1980s. That land was taken away but never given back until recently although she had won a court battle against government. Another unnamed person, he said, also had a parcel of land returned based on a previously ignored court order.
Touching on land leased to State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) official, Eric Phillips, the GLSC boss said he “had nothing to do” with that allocation as “it came before my time”.
In the case of Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, Benn said the four approved applicants for 1,000 acres had been headed by Engineer, Charles Ceres.
Benn explained that the land application had been approved in 2004 but the title had not been issued until after 2016. However, he said the lease was cancelled due to squatting. Since then, he said Lowenfield has expressed an interest in acquiring lands elsewhere. “We have started that process and we have no apologies for that,” Benn said.
About Department of the Environment official, Ndibi Schwiers, Benn said he had no interest in the land. He expressed concern that persons were being targeted for political reasons. “It’s a tragedy that we are pulling the names of good people in the mud for political gain,” he said.
The GLSC Commissioner suggested that Jagdeo has large acreages of land. “The individual who spoke yesterday has thousands of acres,” the senior government official, who reports directly to the Ministry of the Presidency, said.
The CEO expressed surprise that for some reason a few government officials would be zeroed in on because that politician believed they should not have access to lands.
He said efforts were being made to stamp out corruption, increase revenue, improve land management, provide training and distribute lands in far-flung areas such as Mabaruma, Kwakwani, Kildonan and other areas.
Benn assailed unidentified members of his staff for colluding with others in breaching the confidentiality of applicants and landholders. “Some of our staff are known to be in collusion with very powerful forces who want to take control of our lands,” he said.
The CEO warned that he would deal with the known individuals “condignly”.
The GLSC has beefed up its legal department to address anomalies before approvals are granted.
He rejected any suggestion that he was involved in corrupt transactions. “I, therefore, challenge anyone to come forward with evidence that will implicate me in any corruption…I can speak for me,” he said.