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Transport and General Coop Credit Union’s GY$40 million unseen “leased” land, among “glaring irregularities”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 March 2023, 17:11 by Denis Chabrol

The Amalgamated Transport & General Cooperative Credit Union (AT&GC) appeared to have invested GY$40 million in 50 acres of land for housing but Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton said the purportedly leased land could not be found.

The leased land, he said, is presumably located somewhere in Diamond but the coordinates are “blind”. “Long and short of it! No one knows where this land exists. Nobody that was there, no member so far, no officer knows. I have been asking for somebody to take me to the land and that has not happened so there is no land you have $40 million of the people’s money that was transferred to the Lands and Surveys,” he said.

The Labour Minister said the Lands and Surveys Commission has confirmed receiving the money. He said the Credit Union’s Interim Management Committee requested a refund but was advised that that would depend on the outcome of an audit and investigation. He said although the then Lands and Surveys Commission had issued a “holding lease”, GY$40 million was paid to that body long before he was appointed minister in 2020 as the intention was to sell the land to the Credit Union for housing development.

Mr. Hamilton, whose ministry is responsible for the oversight of Guyana’s cooperative societies, said the AT&GC had also purchased raw gold to make long-service brooches staff. He said many of the persons who collected the items had not paid off for the items which fetch an average price of GY$250,000. “The gold that was not sold, they had in a safe there at the office unprotected,” he said, adding that the Labour Ministry’s Chief Cooperatives Development Officer (CCDO) had arranged for the precious yellow metal to be held in a safety deposit box at a commercial bank.

According to the Labour Minister also, a large amount of money had been found in a drawer at the AT&GC’s office that could not have been accounted for.

Also raising eyebrows, he said was GY$36 million that the credit union had provided to a Canadian manganese company for use as a revolving fund. Although the money was repaid, he said that was an irregular transaction.

“The (interim) management committee is working to restructure the management and they are working to have all the audits up to date,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.  He said after those are completed, the stage would be set for the CCDO to call an Annual General Meeting to elect new office bearers within six months.

The Labour Minister said he inherited the AT&GC with an interim management committee which was put in place as a result of “some glaring discrepancies.” Based on the audits, he said the CCDO would advise whether the police should be called in.

In terms of other properties, he said the ownership of the building on Urquhart Street, Georgetown where the offices of the AT&GC and the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (AT&GWU) are housed were being contested. He recalled seeing papers indicating that the buildings were originally owned by the Guyana Cooperative Insurance Service (GCIS). “Based on the review of the documents at the land registry, the whole land there might belong to the GCIS so the lawyers are paying attention to those matters,” he said. He said steps would be taken to build a new AT&GC office if there is legal proof that the GCIS owns the property