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November 30, 2014Brassington pawns Marriott, adjoining state lands for US$29MBy Abena RockcliffeFrom all indications,Ryan Reaves Jersey, Republic Bank has not been able to gather investors to contribute to a US$28M syndicatedAHI and NICIL boss, Winston Brassingtonloan for Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI) needed for the completion of the Marriott branded hotel in Kingston, Georgetown.This has been made evident by the mortgaging or pawning of the hotel for some US$27M. The hotel was mortgaged to the very bank that was to be the lead lender of the syndicated loan (a loan offered by a group of lenders.)Also, AHI which was set up as a Special Purpose Vehicle to oversee the Marriott and is essentially being controlled by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has mortgaged the neighbouring land that once accommodated the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department for US$2M.The accumulated loan for the two assets amounts to $US29M slightly more than what was supposed to be sourced through Republic Bank as a syndicate.According to the Official Gazette published on November 22, last the US$2M mortgage of the state land “and all future building and erections that may hereafter be constructed or erected” will last for a term of 99 years.Kaieteur News was not able to confirm with Republic Bank the reasons for the change of plans. But, in September, Executive Director of NICIL, Winston Brassington, who also heads AHI and has been consulting and negotiating with himself on behalf of NICIL and AHI, said that the Republic Bank was “close to finalizing the documentation for the debt financing agreement.He had said that the paperwork is currently holding up the Hong Kong businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan and Xu Han, from finalizing their one-off payment of US$8 million for their 67 per cent equity in the hotel.Brassington stated that once the security documentation for the US$27 million debt financing was finalized the two investors would be making their payment.He had noted that the Hotel was still aiming for a December opening.However, later on in September, Alliance For Change (AFC) leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, told the media that the hotel was in shambles. He said that investors are unwilling to invest at such a time when it is unsure whether the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration will remain in power.Ramjattan said, that it has been communicated to him that the investors are not committed to the Marriott at this time.Ramjattan told the media that the No-Confidence Motion which his Party tabled has resulted in “some serious hesitation” on the part of the investors.He said, “They were supposed to put the money in, but they have not, but like the behaviour of all the investors, they don’t want to invest when things seem unstable.”“They know that elections are coming soon and we have made a statement that we are going to question all these projects by the Government, and if we find anything illegal we will revoke the contract. These investors, I understand, are concerned about that statement,” said the AFC Leader.Ramjattan told the media that from all indications, the investors are worried to the extent that “they are saying let us see what transpires later down the line. They feel as if it is not safe to invest at this point.”Brassington had even gone to China to seek new investors.To date, all the money that has been spent on the Marriott has been taxpayers’ dollars. NICIL has officially expended US$20M building the controversial Marriott Hotel.AHI also leased the prime seven acres of shorefront property on which the hotel rests for a measly US$120 (G$24,000) per month with an option to buy.The Marriott will boast 197 rooms, a large ballroom, conference centre, casino, nightclub, restaurant, a concrete walkway and all other amenities of a world-class hotel.The project is an estimated total investment of US$51M.December 1, 2014Pawning of Marriott…Govt. must make entire AHI and Republic Bank deal public – Prof. Thomas…Says Brassington is running desperate“The government would be making a foolish mistake continuing this project without consultation with stakeholders”By Abena RockcliffeAll that has been spent so far on the construction of the Marriott branded Hotel is taxpayers’ dollars, so the government has a responsibility to inform the nation about all major developments with this project.Professor Clive ThomasHead of NICIL and AHI, Winston BrassingtonThat is the contention of economist Professor Clive Thomas, who told Kaieteur News, yesterday, that it is only right that the deal made between Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) and Republic Bank be made public as soon as possible.Professor Thomas’s reasoning is that “Government is spending my money on this project, so it has a major duty to be accountable to me and likewise all taxpaying Guyanese.”On Sunday, Kaieteur News reported that the Marriott Hotel and adjoining state lands were mortgaged or pawned to Republic Bank in exchange for US$29M.Initially, Republic Bank was to be the lead lender of the US$28M syndicated loan (a loan offered by a group of lenders) to AHI, but investors were apparently not forthcoming.AHI was set up as a Special Purpose Vehicle to oversee the Marriott and is essentially being controlled by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).In addition to the hotel, which it mortgaged for US$27M it has mortgaged the neighbouring land that once accommodated the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department for US$2M.The accumulated loan for the two assets is just US$1M more than what was supposed to be sourced through Republic Bank as a syndicate.According to the Official Gazette published on November 22, last, the lease will last for a term of 99 years.The mortgage of the state land stipulates “all future building and erections that may hereafter be constructed or erected,”Professor Thomas, who is one of Guyana’s more recognized economists, said that something is terribly wrong with the deal between Republic Bank and AHI, as that company (AHI) does not have the ability to just pawn state lands.He said that it is obvious that Winston Brassington, who is the head of NICIL and AHI, is running desperate, simply because no one is willing to invest with a Government that is facing a no-confidence Motion which it tried to abort by proroguing Parliament.The Economist noted that any wise investor would want to wait and assess the political climate, irrespective of personal feelings towards Government.Moving forward   Thomas said that that even though it is imperative that the public knows the details of the deal made between Brassington and Republic Bank, there is much more that Guyanese must insist be dealt with. He said that Government needs to be pushed towards making the best decision regarding this project.The Economist said that one of the most fundamental rules in business and finance is to always cut losses in cases like this, where one can see that major profits will not be made.Pointing out that the Marriott project was flawed from the beginning as it would be difficult to be successful, based on the utilization capacity in the hotel sector; Thomas said that deep thought must be put into whether the project should continue.The economist said that there is no use in the government continuing along the line that it has taken with hope that “things will turn around.” There is a very real possibility that things may not turn around.He said, “The government would be making a foolish mistake continuing this project without consultation with stakeholders.” Thomas added that it is not enough that the government says that the Marriott will be successful, it must be proven.The economist said that a system must be set up where it will be evaluated and proven that Marriott will make more economic sense than alternative investments.The Professor said that a good investment is the best use of resources and Guyana must ensure not just a return, but the best return.It is clear that the question of whether Marriott is worth going forward with should not be answered by the government alone, Professor Thomas said.The economist suggested that the issue be put before the National Assembly, whenever it is reconvened, and that body should decide whether it is the best use of resources and an agreement to move forward should be made.He said that this should be after politics is set aside and all heads go together for a fruitful agreement based on the evaluation of all other alternatives. Biggest problemProfessor Thomas said that the evidence now presented for the failure of this project is also evidence of a wider breakdown.“Fundamentally, my view is that all NICIL’s operations are illegal. It is operating as a slush fund and beyond what is expected of a state institution.”He said that the most important task is to bring NICIL under the control of the National Assembly and stop the financial lawlessness and abuse of state resources.Professor Thomas said that as it stands, it is very difficult to exercise control over what is taking place at NICIL.He said that there must be lawful compromise on the way NICIL operates since any entity that is utilizing public resources cannot be private and must therefore come under scrutiny and be answerable to the public.December 3, 2014Brassington continues to hoodwink nation on MarriottGovernment yesterday defended the mortgaging of Kingston property for the Marriott Hotel, saying that the financialWinston Brassingtonarrangements in place allowed it to do so. But its statement raises even more questions over the arrangements between Government and the investors.According to the Government, the ownership of the Marriott Hotel project, the assets of which total in excess of US$58M, would remain with AHI and the syndicated loan of US$27M will be repaid from its operations. This would contradict the fact that the notice for the mortgage published on November 22, 2014 in the Official Gazette, states clearly that all the buildings and erections on the land and any future buildings will belong to the mortgagor – Republic Bank.Denying reports that the Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI) has in effect “pawned” off the hotel, the statement by Government yesterday said that the publication of these mortgages to Republic Bank is in fact concrete evidence that the financial arrangements with that bank are being concluded and that the funding, some US$27M, has been committed.AHI is the special company established by Government to manage the project.Sitting at the head of that company is Winston Brassington, whose controversial handling of Government’s investments and privatizations has been under fire. AHI said that publication of the mortgage in the Official Gazette is normal for any loan agreement. Brassington said that the feasibility studies for the hotel allowed for mortgages to be taken.AHI insisted that on more than one occasion it had pointed out that the conclusion of the Republic Bank financing is a requirement for the closing of the arrangements with the principal investors to acquire 67% of the equity of AHI.The US$58M hotel has been controversial from the start with secrecy surrounding the investors. It was only recently, when the hotel is almost completed, that Government announced that it has found two Hong Kong-based businessmen as partners. Those businessmen are the ones who will put in US$8M. There have also been numerous questions about the source of monies being used in the project but few answers.The project is now set to be completed in February next year, with the hiring of staffers underway.The construction is being carried out by the Chinese-owned, Shanghai Construction Group.In September, Brassington had said that Republic Bank was “close to finalizing the documentation for the debt financing agreement”. To date, all the money that has been spent on the Marriott has been taxpayers’ dollars – some US$20M of it.In October, Member of Parliament for A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Desmond Trotman, petitioned the High Court to prevent the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), the Government-owned company that controls AHI and their head, Brassington, from mortgaging, leasing or in any way transferring the title of the land and building on which the Marriott Hotel sits in Kingston.December 5, 2014MP challenges Marriott mortgage in Court…says AHI’s sole purpose is to unlawfully divert public funds The construction of the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown, is again coming under fire, with A Partnership forAPNU MPDesmond TrotmanNational Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman, filing formal Notices of Opposition against the recent mortgages sought by Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) from Republic Bank Limited. That money has been described by AHI as the syndicated loan it had approached Republic Bank to facilitate and manage.Published in the November 22, Official Gazette was a notice indicating that AHI was pursuing a first mortgage on the lands and buildings where the Georgetown Marriott is being constructed in Kingston. This however is being challenged by Trotman.Three official notices were filed with the Deeds Registry on Wednesday last, by Attorneys-at-Law Rex McKay, Neil Boston, Bettina Glasford and Brendan Glasford.In filing the notice of opposition to the mortgages, Trotman is contending that as a citizen of Guyana, he has a right or interest in the property being mortgaged, since it is public property of the State.Trotman further contends that he has a duty under Article 32 of the Constitution, “to combat crime and other violations of the law and take care of and protect public property.”The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive is adamant that AHI, which is the Special Purpose Vehicle (Company) established by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to build and own the Marriott Hotel, is unlawful.He further charges that AHI was set up as a subsidiary of NICIL “for the sole and predominant purpose of unlawfully diverting moneys raised by Guyana, which should be paid into the Consolidated Fund, but are used for financing the construction of the Marriott Hotel, a project not approved by Parliament”.Trotman in his Notice of Opposition argues that AHI is not the competent body to mortgage the property in question or any part of it, without the expressed approval of Parliament.Three separate notices of opposition have been filed in relation to each of the mortgages sought by AHI for the Hotel project.Following the publication of the notice in the Official Gazette, AHI in a public missive sought to clear the air and said that the publication of the mortgages is, in fact, concrete evidence that the financial arrangements with Republic Bank Limited are being concluded and that the funding has been committed by the bank.According to AHI, “the publication of these mortgages is (sic) consistent with standard procedures for the security of a loan agreement and are in line with the financial arrangements published in the feasibility studies for the construction of the hotel project”.AHI also used the opportunity to remind that the conclusion of the Republic Bank financing is a requirement for the conclusion of the arrangements with the principal investors to acquire 67 per cent of the equity of AHI.The Notices of Opposition filed by Trotman represent the latest in a string of court action initiated by the Member of Parliament in relation to the pursuit of the Georgetown Marriott Hotel under the existing circumstances.In October last, Trotman sought a Conservatory Order preventing AHI and its principal, Winston Brassington, from mortgaging, leasing, or in any way transferring the title of the land and building on which the Marriott Hotel sits in Kingston. He had also moved to the court to seek to prevent public funds from being plugged into the US$58M project.By virtue of a vesting order issued in November 2010, more than six acres of land on which the Marriott sits was transferred to NICIL. This information was published in the Official Gazette and three years later the land was leased for 99 years by NICIL to AHI.The hotel’s construction is being carried out by Shanghai Construction Group.December 6, 2014Brassington attempts to take out US$27M debenture on Marriott…attracts immediate court action seeking injunction  Litigation continues to pile up against Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), this time with A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU)Desmond TrotmanDesmond Trotman moving to the court to prevent the company from taking out a US$27M debenture it is seeking from Republic Bank Limited.Trotman, through his Attorneys Rex McKay, Neil Boston, Bettina Glasford and Brendan Glasford yesterday filed the affidavit seeking an injunction preventing the financial transaction.On November 22, AHI caused to be published in the Official Gazette a notice indicating that the company was looking to take out a mortgage against the land and building of the Marriott Hotel being constructed in Kingston.Trotman has already filed Notices of Opposition against that transaction.On November 29 also, AHI caused to be published in the Official Gazette, the fact that it was looking to take out three debentures against the same property totaling US$27M.Trotman has since moved to the court to prevent this transaction by way of an injunction.Winston Brassington as head of AHI had moved to Republic Bank to secure a mortgage, which the company explained was in fact the US$27M Syndicated Loan it had approached the bank for, now there is the US$27M debenture from Republic Bank as is being advertised in the Gazette.In October last, Trotman had moved to the court for an injunction seeking to restrain the Attorney General, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, AHI and Winston Brassington from mortgaging, leasing or in any form or manner transferring the title of the property.He had also sought a Conservatory Order seeking to restrain the Minister of Finance from encumbering, mortgaging, leasing or in any form or manner transferring the properties or from authorizing NICIL, AHI or Brassington to undertake any similar such transactions.None of these matters have been concluded and are all pending before the court but this has not prevented Brassington from seeking to acquire the US$27M debenture.According to the notice published in the Official Gazette, the debenture will confer a Fixed First Charge ranking as a First Mortgage on the property, and also ranking pari pasu with First Mortgages executed or to be executed by the Company in favour of the Bank on the said property.According to Trotman in his Affidavit, the public trust doctrine enjoins upon the government to protect the ocean front state property and that the land cannot be sold or transferred by government for commercial purposes.Yesterday’s resort to the court comes on the heels of Trotman filing three notices of opposition against the mortgage Brassington is seeking against the Marriott from Republic Bank.In filing those documents, Trotman contends that he has a duty under Article 32 of the Constitution, “to combat crime and other violations of the law and take care of and protect public property.”The Member of Parliament is adamant that AHI which is the Special Purpose Vehicle (Company), established by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to build and own the Marriott Hotel, is unlawful.He further charges that AHI was set up as a subsidiary of NICIL “for the sole and predominant purpose of unlawfully diverting moneys raised by Guyana, which should be paid into the Consolidated Fund, but are used for financing the construction of the Marriott Hotel, a project not approved by Parliament.Trotman in his Notice of Opposition argued that AHI is not the competent body to mortgage the property in question or any part of it, without the expressed approval of Parliament.Following the publication of the notice in the Official Gazette, AHI in a public missive sought to clear the air and said that the publication of the mortgages is, in fact, concrete evidence that the financial arrangements with Republic Bank Limited are being concluded, and that the funding has been committed by the bank.“The publication of these mortgages are (sic) consistent with standard procedures for the security of a loan agreement and are in line with the financial arrangements published in the feasibility studies for the construction of the hotel project,” according to AHI.AHI also used the opportunity to remind that the conclusion of the Republic Bank financing is a requirement for the conclusion of the arrangements with the principal investors to acquire 67 per cent of the equity of AHI.December 7, 2014US$58M Marriott to be sold in 10yrs for US$76M…named Chinese investors still a no show eight months later The Georgetown Marriott Hotel, currently under construction in Kingston Georgetown, is likely to be sold 10 years afterNICIL/AHI Head, Winston Brassingtonit opens its doors. By this time all repayment on investments and debts are scheduled to be completed.At least this is according to the Feasibility Study conducted for the project by Florida-based, HVS Consulting and Valuation.According to the summary of the project’s development cost and cash flows, in year 10, the net total income of the hotel is set at US$82.8M.This, according to the study, represents the actual year 10 net income at US$6.7M. The remaining US$76.1M represents sales proceeds.The Hotel is projecting to rake in net earnings of US$3.4M in the first year of operations which increases incrementally to US$6.5M by year nine, after which it is slated to be sold the following year.To date the National Industrial and Commercial Investments (NICIL) remains the only investor in the US$58M Hotel Project, with its equity investment of US$4M.NICIL which is headed by Winston Brassington, has also loaned an additional $15.5M to the project but this money will receive zero interest over the repayment period.This money will only be repaid as long as cash flow enables.In May, Atlantic Hotel Inc, the Special Purpose Company created and headed by Brassington to own the Hotel Project, announced that ACE Square Investment Limited, a British Virgin Islands registered company would be investing the remaining US$8M equity in the project. To date this is yet to become a reality.ACE Square Investment Limited has as its principals, two Hong Kong businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan, and Xu Han.Those two men were expected to rake in approximately US$46M by the end of 10 years.This is also documented in the extract of the feasibility report which was released to the media.According to reports, during the first three years of the hotel’s operation, AHI will pay the Chinese Investors US$1.3M annually.From year four of the hotel’s operation, they will be paid US$1.2M each year for the next six years.According to the report, in year 10 of its operation, ACE Square Investment Limited will be paid a whopping US$37.2M, setting the rate of return over the 10 year period at 22.2 per cent.Included in the agreement signed, the Hotel will enjoy a 10-year waiver on corporate and property taxes which will commence from the first year of commercial operations.Meanwhile, Republic Bank which has been engaged to secure a syndicated loan of US$27M and an additional loan of US$4M to be solicited by the operators of the Entertainment Complex, will at the end of year 10 be paid a total of US$51.1M.According to the feasibility study, when the Hotel is up and running the Senior Debt, solicited by Republic Bank will receive payment before the Chinese Investors, the NICIL equity, and the NICIL debt.Incidentally, five years after the hotel begins its operations, it will take on an additional loan.Repayment of this loan will also take priority over the NICIL loan.December 11, 2014Locals want $8M Marriott equityWith a lucrative offer of owning 67 per cent of the US$58M Georgetown Marriott Hotel by investing only US$8M, there are local businessmen who have expressed an interest in participating in the project but seem to be stonewalled by project director, Winston Brassington.One such businessman with a proven track record of financial capacity recently related to this newspaper that he had approached Brassington to invest.He was told, “Your foot too short.”Brassington at the time indicated to the local businessman that the Government-controlled, Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), which is managing the hotel and its construction, has already secured a private investor- ACE Square Investment Inc, owned by two Hong Kong businessmen.Following the public announcement by Brassington, the two businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan, and Xu Han, are yet to put in the promised US$8M, leading the local businessman to question what exactly is going on as it relates to the financial arrangements for the Georgetown Marriott.The local businessman is adamant that since the project presents a lucrative option, he would like to invest but is currently being stonewalled by Brassington.According to projections of Government, the private investor who would be plugging US$8M would be pocketing approximately US$46M by the end of 10 years.The businessman’s offer is similar to one made by Publisher of the Kaieteur News, Glenn Lall.He said that in a telephone conversation with Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, regarding the Marriott Hotel, he had signaled his intentions to become a small investor in the project.“His reaction was dismissive,” Lall said. “He said that if a man has expertise in a hotel business and he come to us, we will take him in front of you as he will be more of an asset.  To date, we are reading no investor on board, and I am yet to get a telephone call from the Minister. I am still interested in making the investment,” Lall added.AHI has, however, publicly announced two investors, none of whom has experience in the industry but rather in mining and lottery.Brassington, AHI and the proposed Marriott project had come under extreme criticism over the fact that a private investor will only have to invest US$8M to control the US$58M project.With Brassington’s refusal of local investors who have demonstrated capacity and financial ability, there are continuing questions as the refusal and continuing secrecy over the details.A local private investor will force details of the financial arrangements to be exposed.Following years of being unable to secure the financing to complete the project, AHI recently caused to be published in the Official Gazette the fact that it had taken out a mortgage from Republic Bank, with the collateral being the hotel’s land and property.Under the proposed financial structure for the project, as announced by Brassington, Government through the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) will invest a total of US$4M to own 33 per cent of the project while it will loan the project another US$15.5M to be repaid at no interest.According to Brassington, Republic Bank was approached to facilitate a syndicated loan of US$27M while a private investor will invest US$8M and own the majority shares.This, according to local investors, appears to be a lucrative offer but they are being prevented from putting in their money.To date, based on information, NICIL remains the only investor in the US$58M Hotel Project, with its equity investment of US$4M.There are also questions at this time, with the fact that the Kingston hotel is significantly completed, where the additional monies came from.December 14, 2014Marriott Concessions: a death knell for Pegasus, Princess … possible involvement of Dr ‘Bobby’ Ramroop as an investor-Christopher RamBy Gary EleazarThe bounty of concessions handed to Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) for the construction and ownership of the Georgetown MarriottChartered Accountant, Christopher RamHotel, spells the death knell for the Pegasus Hotel and possibly the Princess Hotel—concessions the likes of which are reminiscent of those handed to Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII).This is the position held by Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, who, following extensive research and analysis, has surmised that there is absolutely no way any investor can compete with the AHI project unless he receives similar concessions.In his writings, Ram documents that under the agreement negotiated by Winston Brassington with the Guyana Office for Investment (GOINVEST), the new facility is being granted for 10 years, exemption from corporation, property and withholding tax (including the payment of interest and dividends to debt providers and equity holders.)Withholding Tax is income tax withheld from employees’ wages and paid directly to the government, by the employer.Ram added that the developer has received an undertaking that it will be granted a licence to operate a casino.Among the sleuth of concessions handed to the project is guaranteed relief from duty and excise tax on capital repairs or replacements, including machinery, equipment and buildings costing more than US$10,000.“And on top of that, the developer is entitled to a one-off retrofitting of the project if so required for a period of ten years (sic) from the commencement of commercial operations…There is absolutely no way any investor can compete with AHI’s project unless it receives similar concessions.”According to Ram, it is either that the hotel will make super-profits or competitors will simply be run out of business.“These concessions spell the death-knell of the Guyana Pegasus and possibly the Princess Hotel as well…The only other entity in Guyana that came close to such generous concessions is the (Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’) Ramroop-owned Queens Atlantic Inc,Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramrooplending credence to the rumours that the investor will be the same group.”Ram in his analysis also points out that the Agreement, as signed, has no conditions regarding ownership. It means that AHI can sell the hotel one day after completion with all the massive concessions which amount to a windfall to whoever the buyer turns out to be.“The Guyana Government has now taken on the role of venture-capitalist and procurer of concessions, licences and permits for an unknown entity(ies) which is not willing to invest any money upfront…It is hard to think of any similar arrangement across the Caribbean!”Further, compounding the situation, according to Ram, is the re-negotiated terms and conditions under which the Chinese Contractor—Shanghai Construction Group—caused to be finalized and agreed to by Winston Brassington, who heads AHI.According to Ram, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), dated June 14, 2011 and signed by Brassington and Michael Zhang, notes that SCG had submitted a tender of US$65M based on an original design but that the amount was considerably above the US$41M budgeted cost for the construction.“The MOU goes on to state that SCG “ and apparently no one else “ was allowed to submit an alternate design meeting Marriott international design standards…The MOU reflects a situation in which SCG went for the kill, realising that it had all the cards and that its opponent was either weak, compromised by circumstances or grossly incompetent.”According to Ram, the Chinese demanded, in exchange for a reduction of US$14M in the contract price, a number ofHead of Atlantic Hotel IncWinston Brassingtonquestionable clauses.The Chinese Contractor demanded, firstly, the removal of any obligation on SCG to pay all taxes, duties and fees, and obtain all permits, licences and approvals … placing these on AHI.Moreover, SCG demanded that it receive full exemptions from all taxes and according to Ram, Mr Brassington agreed.He said that the Chinese Contractor also demanded that it be allowed to import any personnel necessary for the execution of the project.Brassington agreed to this and turned out that the Chinese imported 100 per cent of its labour force thus sidelining Guyanese.The Chinese also demanded that its obligation to repay an Advance Payment be removed from the agreement to which Brassington also agreed.Brassington also agreed to have the principal provisions regarding Claims, Disputes and Arbitrations be deleted in their entirety.“The result is a complete sell-out of every principle that served Guyana’s interest, an agreement that was re-written by SCG for SCG. And Mr Brassington agreed.”December 16, 2014Chinese Contractor duped Brassington on Marriott Project – Chris RamShanghai Construction Group (SCG), the Chinese Company that is currently constructing the Marriott Hotel in Kingston,Winston Brassington, Head of Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI)Georgetown, may have duped Winston Brassington, the sole Director of Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI), into taking on additional expenditure and further, may have sacrificed the quality of works to be done on the project.This is the view held by Chartered Accountant and Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram, who in his recent and most revealing writings on the hotel project to date, drew reference to the price tags and what Brassington agreed to.He recalled that when AHI conceived the project, the budget was US$41M, based on drawings and specifications. It went to tender on that basis.According to Ram, when SCG sent in a tender for US$65M, Brasington rejected it and requested that the company come back with an alternative design that would meet Marriott’s standards.Ram said that SCG came back with a design and a cost of US$51M. Several costs and most importantly, one relating to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, were excluded.“What SCG was effectively telling AHI is that if you wish to have LEED certification then you must pay for it…And Mr Brassington said yes.”Ram said, too, that not only is there “cutting corners on statutory deductions, changing design specifications and eco-features, we allow the contractor to dictate to us about quality certification.“Having been duped by SCG, the Chinese contractor, on the importation of labour – although Guyana had the final say in work permits – the next danger for us is who is looking after the interest of AHI in ensuring that we do not have a similar experience in the quality of the material used or in supervising the execution of the work by the contractor.”Ram reports that he was recently regaled with the post modern technology and material being employed on the cut-priceChartered Accountant Christopher Ramcontract. He surmised that “maybe that explains why none of the local consulting engineering firms was retained by AHI to look after its interest.”On the matter of the project supervision, Ram said that an experienced engineer expressed to him considerable doubts on the ability of AHI to put together a competent team to deal with the international contractor, SCG.“According to the engineer, AHI has stepped well out of its league, even though the internet made it easy to research the experiences of other countries using Chinese contractors with Chinese labour.”Ram said that the engineer suggested that persons who negotiate building works contracts should have an understanding of building components, building codes and current construction practices.“Of course, the contractor on a project of this size should have a Quality Manager whose primary responsibility is to meet Quality Assurance/Quality specifications…But contractors are mainly interested in maximising profits which comes from reducing costs, and so AHI must satisfy itself and specify the steps embedded in the process to ensure that quality assurance and quality control matches the agreed plans and specifications.”On the matter of the price of the project as against the quality of the works done, Ram said that AHI would have needed to ensure, even before construction started, that it had in place a team to manage the construction supervision, including the ‘Engineer’ who will sign off on the final product and approve design changes.According to Ram, “It is true that we negotiated on price…The question now is whether AHI knows whether it has compromised on quality.”December 19, 2014Mystery surrounds source of Marriott money…US$8M equity investor in limbo – NICIL boss admitsMonths after two Hong Kong businessmen were announced as the equity investor in the Marriott Hotel, Government hasWinston Brassingtonfinally admitted that it has not yet received a blind cent of that US$8M.Head of Atlantic Hotels Inc,Victor Martinez Tigers Jersey, Winston Brassington said that legal challenges have halted any investment.At the same time it would raise alarming questions now about where Government is getting the money from to complete the US$57M hotel which is set to open its doors in February.Government had originally announced that it plugged almost US$20M, including preparatory works and its own equity, into the project.Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), the Government-owned company that was specially established to manage the hotel construction and later on, the overall operations, had enlisted Republic Bank Trinidad to mobilise investors and issue what is known as a syndicated loan.To secure that loan, Government a few months ago moved to mortgage the lands and property in Kingston where the project is being built. One week later AHI said that it was taking out a debenture on the Marriott.A court case filed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman, in his private capacity, asked for court orders to block the mortgaging of the lands. Trotman said that the transfer of the lands by Government to AHI was illegal.Head of AHI, Winston Brassington, on Wednesday said that the US$8M to come from the equity investor, under the arrangements, will now have to be procured all over again, after the disbursement of the US$27M loan from Republic Bank.APNU MP,Desmond TrotmanBrassington was of course referring to Chinese businessmen Victor How Chung Chan, and Xu Han, whose company, British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered ACE Square Investments Ltd, was touted to have invested the US$8M.Speaking to Kaieteur News on Wednesday, after the commissioning of the US$42M transmission line project of the Guyana Power and Light Inc., Brassington also railed against the court cases filed by MP Trotman, which has held up financing for the project.He said that Republic Bank cannot disburse any of the US$27M unless the security (mortgages) is in place. The court case by Trotman has effectively held up the processing of the mortgage and the debenture, he said.Brassington, who is under fire for his role in the privatization of several state assets, opined that there is a conspiracy by Kaieteur News and the Opposition, including Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan, to “scuttle” the Marriott deal.He accused Kaieteur News of being the “biggest anti-investor” entity, and threatened to write international journalism bodies to investigate the “tactics” being used by the newspaper.The Marriott Hotel has been mired in controversy from its inception firstly with the rerouting of the sewerage system before any works had begun.Prior to the NICIL money, Government had given Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited a US$1M contract for the rerouting of the sewerage system in the Kingston locale. That contract was pulled after more than US$700,000 was paid over.  It was then given to an overseas company, for a further US$2M.AHI also leased the prime seven acres of shorefront property on which the hotel rests for a measly US$120 (G$24,000) per month with the option to buy.The hotel construction is being carried out by Shanghai Construction Group.December 25, 2014Marriott Hotel is the symbol of contempt for taxpayers’ $$$$…Brassington spends $1.7M to advertise unfinished HotelA Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) General Secretary, Joseph Harmon, stated that the Marriott Hotel currently under construction in Kingston, Georgetown, is not only one of the most crass examples of Government’s financial lawlessness, but is also a symbol of contempt for millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.APNU General Secretary, Joseph HarmonHarmon’s comment was made in light of the discovery that the Head of National Industrial and Commercial Investmentsl Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, paid a whopping $1.7M for an advertisement of the unfinished hotel.The advertisement was placed at the back of the 2014 issue of the Guyana Telephone Directory. The cost of the advertisement was confirmed by a sales representative of Guyenterprise Advertising Agency.The APNU General Secretary emphasized that Brassington and his “other cronies, being the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh and former President Bharrat Jagdeo,” have displayed nothing but absolute disrespect for taxpayers’ dollars.Harmon said that the nation knew from the start, that this project reeks of kleptocracy.“The people know that Dr. Singh, Winston Brassington and Bharrat Jagdeo were misusing taxpayers’ dollars on this project. We must not forget that this is a project that the opposition has spoken of at length, and said that it is not transparent.“The opposition warned that the financial arrangements are far from a reflection of churning out mutual benefits to the people, and when they are finished investing the people’s monies into this project, they will sell it in several years. What will we have to show for the abuse? Absolutely nothing, but they would have eloped with the ill-gotten profits.“Meanwhile, this hotel is not even here yet. Brassington is spending more money to advertise the hotel. The advertisement which is on the back cover of the telephone directory does not even say that the hotel is coming soon.“It even has a number there, 231-2480 that you can call and it’s not even in service. What is Brassington trying to do? Make further attempts at trying to fool the citizenry? This is like advertising that you got a cook shop and you have not even put on a window, hired the cook or even buy the stove as yet.”NICIL Head, Winston BrassingtonWhen the number is dialed there is the automated recording “Sorry, the number you’ve dialed is not in service.”“It’s downright disrespectful to be spending the people’s monies like this,” Harmon said.Harmon said that the nation wanted absolute disclosure on the details surrounding the project. “Everything continues to be shrouded in mystery.”He added, “They disclose parts of what they think we should know, and in coded language. It’s a bunch of mumbo jumbo when they talk. I don’t even think they understand what they say most of the times… They can’t keep up with the lies they are telling the nation. It’s just despicable and treacherous. They continue to spend despite the opposition members of the House and they continue to be disrespectful even to the political leaders.“They are spending in contempt of the National Assembly. Jagdeo, Brassington and Dr. Singh are the worst, the nastiest and most corrupt blood suckers this nation has ever seen.”While Harmon holds this view on the hotel, other financial experts had commented on the generous amount of concessions granted to Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI) owned by Brassington, for the construction of the Hotel and the implications for the life of two of Guyana’s leading hotels.Chartered Accountant, Chris Ram had said that when one takes into consideration the magnitude of the concessions granted to AHI, it spells the death knell for the Pegasus Hotel and possibly the Princess Hotel.Ram noted that according to the documents negotiated by Winston Brassington with the Guyana Office for Investment (GOINVEST), the Marriott Hotel is being granted for 10 years, exemption from corporation, property and withholding tax (including the payment of interest and dividends to debt providers and equity holders.)The Marriott Hotel advertisement on the back cover of the 2014 issue of the Telephone DirectoryWithholding Tax is income tax withheld from employees’ wages and paid directly to the government, by the employer. Ram added, that the developer has received an undertaking that it will be granted a licence to operate a casino.It is also guaranteed relief from duty and excise tax on capital repairs or replacements, including machinery, equipment and buildings costing more than US$10,000.“The developer is entitled to a one-off retrofitting of the project if so required, for a period of ten years (sic) from the commencement of commercial operations…There is absolutely no way any investor can compete with AHI’s project unless it receives similar concessions.”Ram, who is an Attorney-at-Law, said, “It is either that the hotel will make super-profits, or competitors will simply be run out of business. …The only other entity in Guyana that came close to such generous concessions is the (Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’) Ramroop-owned Queens Atlantic Inc, lending credence to the rumours that the investor will be the same group.”Ram in his analysis also points out that the Agreement, as signed, has no conditions regarding ownership. It means that AHI can sell the hotel one day after completion with all the massive concessions which amount to a windfall to whoever the buyer turns out to be.Further compounding the situation, according to Ram, is the re-negotiated terms and conditions under which the Chinese Contractor—Shanghai Construction Group (SCG)—caused to be finalized and agreed to by Winston Brassington, who heads AHI.He had also pointed to some of the worrying re-negotiated terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), dated June 14, 2011 and signed by Brassington and Michael Zhang of SCG, which said that SCG had submitted a tender of US$65M based on an original design but that the amount was considerably above the US$41M budgeted cost for the construction.December 28, 2014Mystery monies…Govt. using secret bank accounts to finance Marriott – AFC leaderThe US$57M Marriott Hotel is significantly completed but there questions remain as to where Government is finding the money from to continue construction and other critical works.Initially, Government had plugged in US$20M leaving it to find another US$37M from a private investor and a syndicated loan from Republic Bank Trinidad Limited.However, that US$37M had remained elusive as a court case filed by Opposition’ Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman, has sought to block the mortgaging of the Kingston property.In the meantime, works are still continuing on the site.According to Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, his party has been paying close attention to the Marriott Hotel development.“Parliament has been prorogued so we can’t question them there. However, that does not stop us from asking questions in the public domain. This hotel is set to open early next year. It has been largely completed. So where is the money coming from?”According to the MP, his party has been doing its own investigations and from sources in the Ministry of Finance, it is more than likely that Government is illegally using monies from several secret accounts that it has hidden around the place.“It would explain how the Government, under the Ministry of Finance, has been able to carry on construction. It would also highlight the gross disrespect that this Donald Ramotar administration has for the people of Guyana and how little regard it has for the laws of Guyana, and for Parliament.”Ramjattan pointed out that it was the Auditor General who discovered several seemingly unused state accounts that had millions of dollars lying around in them. There were more than 10 bank accounts with over $2B.“It is highly illegal to spend taxpayers’ dollars without oversight of the National Assembly. Yet that is what we see happening. My enlightened guess is that these are the monies being used…monies that should have rightly been deposited into the Consolidated Fund.”The Opposition Member of Parliament said that the fact that the private investors have not yet put their US$8M in along with the US$27M loan from the Republic Bank should raise alarm bells.“That is why they did not want local Guyanese to invest in the project. We have rich Guyanese yet Winston Brassington who heads the project, with blessings from this Government, is not coming clean with details of is happening.”Earlier this month, Brassington, who heads the Atlantic Hotels Inc, a partially Government-owned company which is managing the Kingston hotel project, admitted that it has not yet received a blind cent of the US$8M that two Hong Kong businessman were supposed to have invested.Ongoing Works: The Marriott Hotel in KingstonBrassington said that a court case by Member of Parliament Trotman blocking the mortgage has held up the US$27M syndicated loan, which in effect has delayed the US$8M coming from the Hong Kong businessmen.Earlier this year, it was announced that the businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan and Xu Han, who are principals in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered ACE Square Investments Ltd, have agreed to come on board as private investors, for US$8M. With that amount, in effect Ace Square would have taken control of 67 percent of the hotel– another controversial decision.To secure the Republic Bank syndicated loan, Government, a few months ago, moved to mortgage the lands and property in Kingston where the project is being built. One week later AHI said that it was taking out a debenture on the Marriott.A court case filed by Trotman, in his private capacity, asked for court orders to block the mortgaging of the lands. Trotman said that the transfer of the lands by Government to AHI was illegal.The Marriott Hotel has been mired in controversy from its inception firstly with the rerouting of the sewerage system before any works had begun.Prior to the NICIL money, Government had given Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited a US$1M contract for the rerouting of the sewerage system in the Kingston locale. That contract was pulled after more than US$700,000 was paid over.  It was then given to an overseas company, for a further US$2M.AHI also leased the prime seven acres of shorefront property on which the hotel rests for a measly US$120 (G$24,000) per month with the option to buy.The hotel construction is being carried out by Shanghai Construction Group.January 04, 2015Pegasus owner pursues US$8M Marriott equityProminent businessman/hotelier, Robert Badal,Zach LaVine College Jersey, says he is willing to write a cheque that will see him gaining controlAHI’s head, Winston Brassingtonof the US$57M Marriott Hotel facilities in Kingston.According to the businessman who holds majority interests in Pegasus Hotel and Guyana Stockfeeds Limited, he has been following keenly the developments with Marriott and now that details of the many incentives and tax breaks granted for the project are coming to light, he is more than willing to invest the US$8M that offers 67 percent ownership of the hotel.“Once there is a guarantee that all these incentives, including the exemptions on the Withholding Tax, Property Tax and Corporation Tax, will come as the conditions under the current arrangements, I will be more than willing to come on board as the equity investor for US$8M,” the businessman said.During the first three years of the hotel’s operation, AHI, which Winston Brassington heads, says that the equity investor will get US$1.3M. From year four of operation, the equity investor will be paid US$1.2M each year for the next six years.In year 10 of its operation, that equity investor will have received a whopping US$37.2M, setting the rate of return over the 10-year period at 22.2 per cent.Should Badal be successful as the equity investor, he is likely to rake in US$46M in returns by the end of 10 years, according to documents provided by Brassington and government.Businessman,Robert BadalThe new hotel is being granted 10-year exemption from Corporation, Property and Withholding Tax (including the payment of interest and dividends to debt providers and equity holders.)Withholding Tax is income tax withheld from employees’ wages and paid directly to the government, by the employer.It is also guaranteeing relief from duty and excise tax on capital repairs or replacements, including machinery, equipment and buildings costing more than US$10,000.The equity investor is entitled to a one-off retrofitting of the project if so required, for a period of ten years from the commencement of commercial operations.Badal’s Pegasus Hotel is located right next door to Marriott in Kingston. And it has no such concessions.  Quite a few other hotels are also miffed over the extravagant incentives.Under it financial arrangements for the Marriott, Government of Guyana has invested through equity and a loan, around US$20M. It is also sourcing another US$27M through a syndicated loan being managed by Republic Bank Trinidad.The catchy part of the arrangement that has surprised many is that the additional US$8M that AHI’s head, Winston Brassington, says is needed, will virtually give control to the equity investor that is coming on board.This hotel is being constructed under “public/private” financing arrangements.Government last year announced that two Hong Kong businessmen had come on board with the US$8M as the equity investors but a court case over the mortgaging of the property saw the Hong Kong two pulling out.The almost completed Marriott Hotel, in Kingston.The two men are Victor How Chung Chan and Xu Han, whose company, British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered ACE Square Investments Ltd, was touted to have invested the money.The extravagant incentives and other benefits have left other hotel operators extremely worried as the new 197-room hotel in Kingston, when it comes on stream this year, is more than likely to close them down.Last month, Brassington admitted that financing for the project was in jeopardy because of the court case filed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman.That case immediately raised questions of where government was getting the monies from to continue building the hotel.January 18, 2015Rejection of Pegasus owner’s US$8M …Govt. not interested in experienced, transparent investors — Nagamootoo—— reeks of an unequal playing field for businesses in GuyanaVice Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Moses Nagamootoo, recently stated that Government’s rejection of the US$8M offer by Pegasus owner, Robert Badal, for the Marriott Hotel clearly shows that it has something to hide. He opined that it proves once again that government is not interested in partnering with experienced and transparent investors.Winston Brassington, owner of Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), said in a statement to the media that it refused Badal’s offer because he feels the Pegasus owner is not serious.Owner of the Pegasus Hotel, Robert BadalNICIL Head, Winston BrassingtonAFC Vice Chairman, Moses NagamootooThe statement from Brassington and the Government could raise even more questions about where they are finding the billions of dollars needed to complete the hotel.Nagamootoo said that he read the news item on Government’s rejection of Badal’s offer and that he was somewhat taken back by the move. He said that it is obvious that Government has a political motive and it blocked Badal from gaining entry into the “secret loop.”Government has, as part of its stakes, plugged almost US$22M of the US$57M needed for the completion of the hotel.The remaining monies would have been coming from a US$27M syndicated loan from Republic Bank and US$8M from a private equity investor. Those monies are now held up as a court action has been filed to block transfer of the properties to the bank for the financing.Badal earlier this month said that Pegasus is willing to plug in the US$8M needed that will give the neighbouring hotel a 67 percent stake in Marriott.However, it is more than clear now that Government is not interested in local investors. Where it raised the monies from to take the hotel to an almost complete stage has been kept in the dark as Brassington and Government have both refused to comment.Nagamootoo said, “I believe Guyanese money is good as money anywhere else. We have been going through the process of having this hotel completed and delivering a strategic investor whose identity had eluded us for months and had been shrouded in secrecy. Now a Guyanese businessman has stepped forward and said ‘let’s put the guessing game to an end. I have the dough’ but Brassington has said ‘No.’“I believe Brassington and the outfit he represents do not sound convincing and are not serious about having Guyanese investment. Prior to this announcement, Government said that the Private Sector will be the engine of growth yet when a businessman steps forward, they have rejected him. They say Badal is not serious.“Well let me say this, in this game, money is the order of the day. If I am ugly, or regardless of my status, the beauty is in the money. So it is clear that it is not money alone. It is more than that. It is certainly a political motive.”The AFC Vice Chairman reminded that he was the lawyer for NICIL headed by Brassington but after he became critical of the company and its suspicious activities, the company retaliated by taking all the work away from him.Similarly, Nagamootoo said that Brassington has retaliated against Badal who was initially critical of the design and financial arrangements of the hotel. He said that the move by AHI reeks of an unequal playing field for businesses in Guyana.General Secretary of the AFC, David Patterson, had also lent his voice to the issue. Patterson asserted that the move by AHI gives life to the saying that “Some investors are more equal than others.” The AFC member said, too, that the Marriott Hotel project is just a “job for the big boys through an opaque deal.”AHI had said that both Stabroek News and Kaieteur News, in October 2013, reported extensively on a statement issued by Badal attacking the feasibility study as “unrealistic assumptions.”Badal had said that he wanted the same tax breaks that Marriott is getting to be made available if he is approved as the investor.“Clearly, Mr. Badal’s reported sudden about face and declaration of interest in becoming a major investor is not to be taken seriously,” said Brassington.But Badal said that neither Brassington nor AHI has called him to find out how serious he is.January 28, 2015Marriott deliberately stealing employees from local hotels – BadalRobert Badal, owner of Pegasus Hotel and a leading investor in the industry, is calling on Marriott Hotel to stop pouching employees from local entities.Winston BrassingtonPegasus Hotel’s owner, Robert BadalPresidentDonald RamotarHe is also asking President Donald Ramotar to disclose to the nation details of the 500 new jobs he promised that Marriott Hotel would be creating, in an attempt to justify the US$57M being spent.Badal disclosed that all of the executive management personnel recruited by Marriott are foreigners.“In recruiting lower level staff, Marriott is pouching staff from reputable local businesses in Georgetown including the Pegasus Hotel. One city hotel has even banned Marriott Hotel’s officials from entering its compound because of unethical practices in pouching its employees.”The businessman disclosed that Marriott is tempting its employees with much larger salaries which are being covered not by Marriott but the Guyanese taxpayers.“In addition to generous fiscal concessions of a ten-year holiday of no corporate tax, no withholding tax, no property tax, no tax on consumables and capital renewal, the Government is now paying for salaries of well-paid expats and other staff. This puts all hotels in Georgetown at a highly uncompetitive position,” Badal said.The businessman pointed out that local hotels have invested their own money with bank financing and have over the years contributed significantly to tax revenue of the local economy, earning foreign exchange and creating employment.“If Marriott wants to operate a hotel in Guyana it must invest its own money.”Badal called on the Ramotar administration to stop spending the taxes Guyanese pay on the Marriott Hotel. The businessman had earlier this month offered to invest US$8M in Marriott to become the 67 percent equity shareholder, but Government refused.Owner of Pegasus Hotel has accused the nearby Marriott Hotel of deliberately stealing his workers.Government had formed a special company, Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), which is managing the construction and shares of the company. Under the financing arrangement, Government invested just over US$20M and was looking to raise US$27M more from a syndicated loan arranged by Republic Bank Trinidad. Another US$8M would have been coming from two Hong Kong businessmen. However a court case filed by Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman, blocking the transfer of the land, has held up those monies.The US$8M would have controversially allowed the two Hong Kong businessmen to gain a 67 percent control of the hotel. But that investment is held up by the court case.Government has remained silent where it found the monies to carry on construction as the hotel is set to open in a few months time.The Opposition has been asking, but Head of AHI Winston Brassington, and Government, have refused to answer. The extravagant incentives and other benefits to Marriott have left other hotel operators extremely worried as the new 197-room hotel in Kingston, when it comes on stream this year, is more than likely to close them down.Last month, Brassington admitted that financing for the project was in jeopardy because of the court case filed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman.March 05, 2015Govt. foots total bill for US$58M Marriott – Luncheon admitsJust weeks before the 197-room, US$58M Marriott Hotel is set to open its doors in Kingston,Winston BrassingtonGeorgetown, Government in explosive disclosures yesterday admitted that all of the monies it spent so far to bring the facility into operation, has been from the taxpayers.That was after court cases and other factors held back the release of more than US$30M from a bank and two private investors from Hong Kong.There had been questions about Government finding the estimated US$34M that was needed to complete the hotel but Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, finally broke the silence, disclosing how the hotel came to the point of completion.He said that the Government-owned, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), has put up the rest of the money with the understanding that the money will be repaid by the investors when the matter is cleared up, sometime in the future.The repayment arrangements is bound to raise eyebrows over where NICIL, first of all,  found over US$34M and more importantly, whether it would make sense to give control of the hotel and its adjoining casino into the hands of a third party, after spending that sum to construct and complete the facilities.Luncheon, during his weekly post-Cabinet press briefings, noted that the financial closure of the hotel deal had been affected by legal actions and other delays.Luncheon said that without NICIL’s intervention, it would not have been possible to advance the hotel to its completion stage.He made it clear that NICIL, a Government-owned company that specializes in investments on behalf of the state, has mechanisms in place that it will be “reimbursed”.Government yesterday admitted that NICIL spent all of the US$58M needed for Marriott Hotel construction.Under the arrangements, Government had leased the Kingston lands -6.886 acres; up-fronted almost US$22M as its share of the project and was awaiting almost US$27M from a syndicated loan via Republic Bank Trinidad, and another US$8M from a Hong Kong duo for the equity shares.Government has set up a special company– Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI)– to handle the management of the hotel.The seven-storey main structure will include an administration building containing offices, and a banquet hall as well as a separate entertainment complex, containing a specialty restaurant, nightclub and casino.Winston Brassington, the head of NICIL and AHI, had said in 2013 an equity investor was secured. However, it was not until May last year that AHI and Republic Bank were able to release the name of the investor. The investors, who were identified as Victor How Chung Chan and Xu Han, are principals in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered, ACE Square Investments Ltd.A few months ago, Brassington, who has been under fire for his role in a number of controversial deals, admitted that financing for the project was in jeopardy because of the court case filed by Opposition Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman.The court case sought to block the transfer and mortgaging, among other things, of those prime Kingston lands.Brassington, and Government by extension, until yesterday, have been largely silent on how the hotel was going up.Built by Chinese contractor, Shanghai Construction Group, the works have been criticized because of the very few jobs that were available to locals.Recently, AHI said that it has hired almost 240 staffers.Last minute minor works, like landscaping, are being done by the contractor with a main roadway, Battery Roadway being currently repaired, in anticipation, of the hotel’s opening.Wednesday March 11, 2015Brassington denies Marriott failed inspection tests– Pegasus owner says new hotel has $25M monthly costsHead of the Marriott Hotel project, Winston Brassington, has denied that a recent inspection to ensure the facility meets required standards has exposed problems, leading to a local contractor being hired to correct works.Winston BrassingtonBrassington, head of the Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), the special company formed to manage the project, took to Facebook yesterday after Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Nigel Hughes, in a post, said that unconfirmed reports indicate problems.Hughes said that the contractor, which he did not name, had been asked to leave the project after Marriott officials came in to inspect works to ensure that it abides by standards of that international chain.This was after the Government of Guyana and Shanghai Construction Group (SCG), “rejected” local labour finding them “inadequately equipped” and “uncompetitive”.Hughes said that a prominent local contracting company of long standing along with its local labour force, has been retained to effect remedial works and complete the project.While Hughes did not name the local company that has been retained, Kaieteur News understands that it is Nabi and Sons.Hughes believes that the opening which was scheduled for April is no longer a realistic option.However, Brassington in a quick response to the statements of the AFC official, said that the post is grossly misleading.He insisted that the Chinese contractor has not been sacked.Pegasus Hotel’s owner, Robert Badal“SCG, the Chinese contractor, is the contractor on site and fully so. Over the last year, increasing use of local inputs has been made with our support. The use of a local contractor firm to assist with completing the punch list is ongoing, particularly since there was a reduction of the Chinese work force during the Chinese New Year celebrations, recently concluded.”Brassington said that it is not unusual for local companies to be used.“Other local firms have been used and continue to be used in various aspects of the works. All of these works are being paid by SCG as part of their contract. Marriott is already training over 150 staff members at the hotel who occupy many of the sections and the hotel will open shortly.”Brassington said that all parties involved have recognized the high quality of work that has been executed by the contractor.“It is quite usual for a punchlist to be produced at the end and these works remedied, which is what is largely occurring inside the hotel.”There were questions raised as to why the contractor was not rectifying the works, but Brassington did not offer additional details.ýMeanwhile, owner of the Pegasus Hotel, Robert Badal, has called on President Donald Ramotar to disclose the amount of taxpayers’ dollars being spent monthly to support Marriott Hotel.AFC’s Nigel HughesPegasus is located adjacent to the Marriott Hotel, in Kingston.Recently, Government admitted that it failed to draw down on over US$34M from investors after a court case was filed blocking the transfer of the Kingston lands from Government.Government spokesman, Dr. Roger Luncheon, admitted recently that it spent more than US$51M from taxpayers’ money to fund the hotel’s construction. The monies will be refunded to Government as the court case would have been resolved, he said.However, according to Badal yesterday, now that the Government has finally disclosed that it has spent more than US$50M of taxpayers’ money to build a hotel for the Marriott, it must now be more imperative for Government to say how much AHI is paying on a monthly basis to expat staff and other staffers, electricity, security and maintenance, among other things.“More than $25M is being spent each monthý to support this rich multi-national with no benefit to the taxpayers. This is in harsh contrast to its refusal to pay UG workers an increase in wages and salaries and improve facilities badly needed to raise the quality of tertiary education in Guyana.”The businessman said that Guyana is a poor country, with its people among the most taxed in the world.“From high corporate tax, to high payroll taxes, 50 percent tax on fuel, 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT)President Donald Ramotarto name a few, it is immoral and criminal to be misusing taxpayer money in this way to benefit a rich multi-national. This amounts to a blatant abuse of public office.”The hotelier, who has been criticizing the numerous tax and other concessions granted to Marriott, noted that it is the taxpayers who are ultimately saddled with the burden.“It has paid no taxes here, contributes nothing economically, but has created dislocation in the local hotel industry, preying on our staff and support services, and bringing nothing of its own. Yet this corrupt Government is diverting the taxes received from local hotels to this group.”Badal said that this will come at a time when President Ramotar is seeking re-election and when his Government continues to misuse public resources.“This amounts to contempt for the people of Guyana. This discrimination against us must not be tolerated in our own country. Guyanese must come together and elect a transparent, accountable, and responsible Government which puts our people and businesses first.”The 197-room hotel, built on a six acre plot of land will include a casino, nightclub, restaurant and conference room.April 16, 2015Marriott Int’l brand may soon be investigated under the USA Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – BadalLocal hotelier, Robert Badal, is of the firm belief that the Marriott Hotel is a monument of fraud andPegasus Owner,Robert Badaldeceit and would bring shame and disgrace to the international brand.The businessman is also convinced that the international brand will suffer a huge blow to its integrity due to its continued alliance with the “corrupt” ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C). He opined too that as a result of its irresponsible actions, the international franchise may soon be investigated under the USA Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.Badal, speaking one day before the internationally branded hotel is due to open officially for business said that as the “soup” drinkers comprising the Private Sector Commission, Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association and other bodies, would in their usual style of betrayal, dance to the tune of a corrupt and incompetent Government and the hollow promises of a low-end hotel brand as it could not resist the fat pay check of a management fee extorted from the poorest taxpayers in the region.Badal is the owner of the Pegasus Hotel, located right next door to the Marriott in Kingston. He has been critical of the tax concessions and a host of other special benefits that Government extended to the Marriot.Badal said that while millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been pumped into the hotel… “children will still wake up in the morning to long periods of blackout and face the same situation when they arrive home to do their homework. We cannot provide any decent level of health care or pay a living minimum wage and university students still have to contend with sub-standard facilities in their quest for a better life. Our roads are still deplorable and citizens overtaxed…”Badal deemed the entire scheme to be fraud and corruption of the highest level.“It shows clearly that the Ramotar administration believes that it owns us, that the taxes we pay belong to them, that they have a transport on us, as some would say. This arrogance, deceit and fraud must be stopped,” he added.Badal reminded that many on the local scene are convinced that the US$8M to be used to pay for 67% equity represents the kickback from the project.ýHe is convinced that it was the intention of the powers behind the project to end up owning a US$58Mý hotel built on taxpayers sacrifice by paying US$8M to be received from kickbacks. This he said, amounts to public theft.Badal asserted that while the poor Guyanese taxpayers are footing the US$58M hotel, Marriott Hotel International is perhaps, smiling “as its monthly operating cost including salaries, electricity, maintenance, security, etcetera are also paid by our taxpayers.”He is of the opinion that this amount exceeds $50M per month which is likely to continue if the PPP remains in office.“While the Government of Guyana is unresponsive to popular opinion and puts the interest of others before the interest of Guyanese because they feel that there is nothing we could do about it, what does this say about the morality of the Marriott brand?”He said that the General Manager of the hotel and the executives in the USA must have known that this project is widely criticized locally and that it was not approved by the National Assembly as a resolution was passed demanding a forensic audit of this project.He said that the Marriott executives must have known that the misuse of public resources by the PPP/C Government in such a manner is unprecedented in any democracy in which it operates and would not even be contemplated in the USA, its domiciled countryý.He added, “Given this, then why has it been associating with a questionable project? Why continue to be a parasite on the backs of Guyanese taxpayers?”He stressed that reputable brands and businesses are built on strong values, integrity, and responsible alliances.  As such, the exploitation of a poor nation he opined, would hardly suggest that the Marriott Hotels represent these values.“I believe that its brand would take a big hit internationally because of its alliance with the corrupt PPP administration. It may even sometime not long from now be investigated under the USA Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” he concluded.April 16, 2015Marriott Hotel: Crooked or Foolish Deal?By Chris RamOn Thursday the cream of the private sector would be gathering at the Kingston Marriott to celebrateAccountant/Lawyer, Chris Ramwhat a leading private sector representative described as an impact investment, i.e. an investment in a company that not only provides a financial return to the investor but also social and environmental returns as well. One example of such a company would be one that produces solar lighting for those without access to electricity, while another would be one producing low cost mini-computers (tablets) for the needs of deprived kids.In both economic as well as financial terms, the Marriott Hotel provides neither a financial return to the investor, in this case a Government company named Atlantic Hotel Inc., nor any social benefit to the community. Let us see what the Government has had to put into the investment:1. Land with a market rental value of $1 US per foot has been leased to the company at half a US cent per square foot, i.e. 1/200 of its worth.2. The land is estimated to be worth around US$75 million but the company can buy it at any time within 99 years for US$1 million. This model practically tells the investor to rent for next to nothing for the next ninety eight years and then exercise the right to purchase in the 99th year when the present day value of $1 million will be worth approximately US$491, using an 8% discount rate.3. There is a concept of a negative rent and the nominal rent being paid is effectively a payment to hold an option for 99 years.4. Investment in GT&T which has produced billions of dollars in dividendsMarriott Hotel is set to open officially today for business.was sold for $30 million to partly finance the government investment in the Marriott. At least $20 million of this sum has been lent to AHI at zero rate of interest and not repayable until after fifteen years. In today’s value that US$20 million paid after fifteen years is worth US$6.3 million, using an 8% discount rate.5. The Government has given a generous tax holiday to the company including ten years for taxes on income and twenty years on duty and taxes on imports.6. The Chinese contractor, which was awarded the contract even before it registered to do business in Guyana, has paid no corporate taxes on its profits, nor as is widely suspected were its all-Chinese labour force subject to tax on their income or to NIS.7. All the development costs including multiple but useless studies, sewage diversion, interest during construction, and administration costs have been borne by NICIL, another Government company whose chairman is Dr. Ashni Singh, the Finance Minister, and is therefore not recoverable.8. In addition to the more than US$20 million given to the company interest free for fifteen years, the Government is putting in another US$4 million by way of equity on which no return is guaranteed.Now, here is the kick: none of the concessions injected by the Government is given any value in how control of the company is exercised. Another Chinese investor – ACE Investments Inc. – who invests US$8 million dollars in equity, is given control of the company while the government becomes a minority shareholder!Because Brassington as the sole director of AHI has decided that details of the investment are a private, commercial matter, no one is sure that ACE is prevented from exercising its controlling interest by selling its shares at any time and capitalise on all the concessions the Government has put into the company! This is either a foolish deal or a crooked one.No doubt, the top brass of the Private Sector Commission will be at the opening to give praise to the Government and so I hope that it’s Chairman, Ramesh Persaud, who is an accountant and is in the business of finance would be willing to answer the following questions:• Should a value not be placed on all the non-equity inputs in the company, including tax concessions, land rent concessions and costs borne by NICIL for the benefit of AHI not recorded in AHI’s books?• Does it make financial sense that the price to be paid for a share by an investor coming in when the project is operational is the same as that paid by an original investor who has also made valuable cash and non-cash inputs?• Is the PSC aware that that is the nature of the arrangement with ACE?• Is the PSC aware that the Shareholders’ and Share Subscription Agreement were entered into in 2013 when the project and its financing were almost completed?• Does the PSC agree with the decision to dispose of shares in GT&T earning hundreds of millions to be invested in ANY investment that produces no return for fifteen years?• Would IPED of which the Chairman of the PSC is the CEO lend money or make advances to any person on the terms on which NICIL is lending AHI?I have not heard anyone make the case that the Marriott was conceived as a social investment for the benefit of any deprived individual or class of individuals, whether economically disadvantaged, physically impaired or socially underprivileged. In fact, a five star brand does quite the opposite – it is expensive, exclusive and selective. So any suggestion of a socially impactful investment is clearly nonsense.There has been some disingenuous attempt to make the financial case for the project using some heavily doctored projections contracted by Winston Brassington. The economic case is even weaker. Does any rational person say “international brand X operates in Guyana and I must therefore visit that country”? Or does a rational person not say “I am thinking of visiting Guyana so let me see what my hotel options are”? No investor decides against coming to Guyana because HSBC or UBS (international banks) does not have a presence here so why do we think that an international hotel is any different?A local, actual example also undermines the economic argument. The GMSA plans to host the PPP/C presidential candidate at a forum and decided that it would be held at the Pegasus. The President and some members of the GMSA were overruled and the venue was suddenly changed to the Marriott. Is there an economic benefit to the switch from a business which pays tax to the Government to one that does not? The GMSA example is the beginning: we can expect business to be diverted to the Marriott to make the financial case for the Marriott. The economic case is at best minimal.I do not think any Guyanese does not welcome the Marriott brand but did it have to come at such an expensive cost to the taxpayer and as an investment by the government rather than by the private sector? Scarce resources are about choices. Does the PSC really think that the Marriott is a more impactful project than an investment in University of Guyana, or a better equipped and paid police force?Finally, there are several legal issues which the project has raised, issues of constitutional violations, illegalities and misfeasance in public office. The project and those who have been part of the improprieties will be in the news for some time to come.There is of course a part two to all of this in the form of the proposed Casino. We will leave that for a later date. (Chrisram.net)April 17, 2015US$60M Marriott opening greeted by protest– APNU+AFC boycotts ceremonyBy Kiana WilburgAnticipations were high for the much-touted grand opening of the MarriottPresident Donald Ramotar and Senior Vice President of the Marriot International Inc., Brenda Durham during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Guyana Marriott Hotel.Hotel at Kingston, the first of its kind in these parts. It was supposed to be a major project initiated by the former administration and now being completed by the Donald Ramotar government.Ahead of the May 11 general elections, it was expected to be a proud moment.But the expected spectacular event complete with pomp and fanfare fizzled yesterday, falling short of expectations.The mostly taxpayer-funded hotel saw heavy police presence and barricades around its environs, and as the proceedings of the event geared to start, protestors who were held at bay by police in front of the nearby Pegasus Hotel, broke the barrier and defiantly stood in front of the Marriott, waving their placards and chanting loudly.There was a glaring absence of the Opposition at the event even though they were formally invited. Also absent was former President Bharrat Jagdeo, the man who pushed for the project despite misgivings by the Opposition.Members of the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)A Protestor argues with a female police officer for her right to peacefully protestwere among the protestors.The police were unable to hold the demonstrators back, leading to a face-off at the entrance of the new hotel.Even though the protests threatened to overshadow the planned proceedings at the US$60M hotel, it did not deter President Donald Ramotar from proceeding with the ribbon-cutting ceremony.The presidential car and security detail vehicles swept past the chanting protestors, into the compound of the hotel.Government ministers seemed unfazed by the harsh comments of the irate taxpayers who were being blocked from protesting and in some cases, assaulted.The opening ceremony was, surprisingly, quite short as it saw brief remarks from President Ramotar and Senior Vice President and Regional General Counsel of the Marriot International Inc., Brenda Durham.Both said the event was indeed historic and that they look forward to seeing the success of the hotel in Guyana. Ramotar had also unveiled the plaque for the hotel with Durham at his side.Keys were presented to the President; Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh; Minister of Tourism, Irfaan Ali, and NICIL head, Winston Brassington. Those present were also given the bronze-coated souvenirs.While the red-carpet occasion continued, taxpayers were still engaged outside in heated exchanges with police officers.The chant was on: “The Ramotar/Jagdeo administration is worse than the anti-christ. They are cruel. But they have three more weeks, three more weeks until they meet the end of the road.”APNU Shadow Minister of Local Government, Ronald Bulkan, explained that the hotel represents a brazen act of corruption, and it is clear that the end is near for a dying government.“I also want to speak on the barricading of all roads leading to the Marriott this morning (yesterday) where citizens sought a peaceful protest, but were prevented from so doing. While the PPP/C is running ads incessantly on the radio, television, print media, etc., boasting and bragging about having returned democracy to Guyana and that today, unlike in the past, people have the right and freedom of assembly and expression, what occurred today proved that they are lying.“I want to call on them to pull these misleading ads forthwith and stop lying to the nation.”Another protestor said, “I am just fed up. We need better schools and hospitals, but they hustle to open this structure born out of lawlessness. It makes me sick. They told us they were getting investors to fund it and then Brassington got the belly to turn around and tell the nation that he used millions of our tax dollars to build it. They are criminals in fancy suits and they need to go to jail.“Just imagine I come out here to exercise my constitutional right and these police officers just pushing me and telling me how I can’t come here. Are these people serious? Is like this government just abusing us, spitting in our face every day and we like the fools, the stupid, dumb people they think we are, must remain silent. Well, not at all. This Government has pushed us to the limit and come May 11 they will feel the wrath of the people. They will know the power of the X.”City Mayor Hamilton Green was also present. He said he was there to check the drainage systems, but was prevented from doing so. He alleged that two police officers assaulted him and arrested his security personnel. He was holding a placard too.The 197-room Marriott Hotel in Kingston was hailed by Government as one of the special projects to boost tourism and hospitality. But it started off on a rocky road. From the transfer of the lands to the murky details of the financing, there were many questions from the Opposition, leading to clashes even in the National Assembly.It was only after continuous pressure that Government finally released a partial feasibility study of the project.From the inception of the project, it has been one filled with controversy, as billions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent by Government on the edifice and without the authority of the National Assembly. It was supposed to be a private/public partnership project. In the end, it ended up mostly a Government one. No big worry, except that Government is now planning to transfer a majority stake to a shadowy Hong Kong investor.The lack of transparency and plans by Government to sell 67 percent of its equity to the equity investor for a mere US$8M, along with a host of tax concessions have angered Opposition as well as other hoteliers who have been struggling to fill rooms.More than US$35M of taxpayers’ dollars were initially sunk into the hotel’s construction with no evidence of the hundreds of jobs promised during the construction to locals. The Chinese contractor, Shanghai Construction Group, reportedly imported scores of workers.The still-secret concessions and other benefits of the Marriott Hotel have also been heavily criticized not only by the Opposition, but by other hotels which said the unfair playing field gave Marriott-brand structure a big advantage over them and would spell the death knell for them.Last year, the Opposition, through Desmond Trotman, a former Parliamentarian, filed a court case blocking the hotel from transferring the lands and mortgaging it. It effectively blocked more than US$20M from coming in from the investors.The calls are now on for Government to sell shares of the hotel to locals instead of a virtually unknown foreign investor.April 18, 2015Brassington’s only crime was working hard – President Ramotar…but opposition says President’s idea of hard work is “warped”By Desilon DanielsIt was a night of glitz, glamour and wine as Guyana’s top brass turned out at theExecutives of the Marriott Hotel along with Guyanese officials including President Donald Ramotar (centre)newly opened Marriott Hotel on Thursday evening to celebrate the hotel’s grand reception.It was also a big night for Executive Director of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington who was lauded throughout the evening for the “integral role” he played in the controversial hotel’s opening.Though the official opening earlier that day had been marred by protest action by irate Guyanese who believed the hotel was a clear sign of disrespect, the evening was all smiles as hundreds of invited guests turned out to spend the night touring the various levels of the taxpayer-funded hotel.Not a single member of the Opposition was there though they had been invited to celebrate.Those in attendance were privy to a variety of expensive dishes; they greeted each other in different languages including Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. All the while, mostlyHundreds turned out on Thursday evening for the Marriott Hotel grand reception.Guyanese waiters and waitresses slinked through the crowd, smiles plastered on their heavily made-up faces as they proffered drinks and food to guests.The mingling was briefly interrupted by remarks from Brenda Durham, Senior Vice President and Regional General Counsel for Marriott International and President Donald Ramotar.In both remarks, Brassington was hailed for the part he played in the success of the hotel. This role was the injection of millions of US dollars of taxpayer money from the government-controlled NICIL. The remarks came after a long-winded introduction from Communications Specialist, Kit Nascimento who also praised Brassington as he introduced the man.“I think that with respect to the opening of this magnificent hotel, there is no one in this room who deserves greater recognition, greater respect and greater praise than Winston Brassington,” Nascimento said to hearty applause from Guyana’s senior representatives.The hearty cheers for Brassington did not go unnoticed by the international delegation and, when it was her time to take the stand, Durham said, “I suspect that he [Brassington] mustFrom left: President Donald Ramotar, Brenda Durham, Senior Vice President and Regional General Counsel for Marriott International and other officials made their way through one of Marriott’s meeting halls.have somewhat of an infamous reputation.”Smiling, she continued, “But from our standpoint and from the time I had with him and getting to know him, he’s really a true visionary and I’d like to thank him for helping to implement what the government of Guyana had for the vision of this hotel.”However, Brassington’s biggest fan was clearly President Ramotar who asserted that the NICIL Head was “exemplary”.“Let me join with those who spoke before in acknowledging the role of Winston Brassington, an exemplary public servant whose only crime was working hard. No other public servant has deserved this more than Winston Brassington,” Ramotar bellowed into the microphone. He went on, “Based on the facility and the full compliance of Marriott with applicable tax laws, AHI [Atlantic Hotel Inc.] is poised to be the largest taxpayer in the hotel and hospitality sector in our country.”AHI is the special purpose company established to own and manage the Guyana Marriott Hotel.All the while, Brassington, who is also the Chairman of AHI, stood to the side of the erectedSweet treats were available on Thursday’s grand reception.stage, simply blushing as the accolades and cheers rolled in. Though he was clearly the man of the night, Brassington did not address the assembly.Opposition Member Joseph Harmon has opined that Brassington’s connection with the Marriott Hotel is far from exemplary.“The fact that he [President Ramotar] would associate working hard with a crime says that he knows something that we don’t know,” Harmon said.  “As far as I know, Mr. Brassington spent money from the taxpayers’ pocket…Mr. Ramotar has a warped sense of what exemplary is. You cannot say a man is exemplary when he’s lying to the public saying there are investors when there are none; when he’s saying tests have been done before they are…how can you call that exemplary? As far as the Guyanese public is concerned, it’s not exemplary but contemptuous.”President Ramotar also gave special thanks to his predecessor, President Bharrat Jagdeo, who was noticeably absent from the event, and the Chinese constructing company, Shanghai Construction Group.He also expressed hope that the construction company, which he said was “coming under attack”, would be able to use the Guyana Marriott Hotel as a testimony to its work to secure other jobs in Guyana and internationally.The President also spent quite a substantial amount of his time bashing the opposition for “stymieing” the Marriott project and other government plans such as the Amaila Hydropower Project.“Making this project happen has been a challenge; it had to overcome considerable odds but today, despite all of these attacks and slander by people specialized in negativity, it has become a reality,” Ramotar said.He also rehashed activities of his government that were deemed successful and other projects currently underway, including offshore oil explorations.However, the guests quickly became restless as President Ramotar droned on, and the chatter steadily grew as the guests chatted and sipped their drinks.Eventually the night wore on and the mingling continued for a few more hours. The night finally wrapped up and many of the distinguished guests, impressed and giddy from a night of elegance, left the Marriott Hotel, the police officers outside wishing them a pleasant evening as they drove off in their expensive rides.April 20, 2015Cancellation from Pegasus to Marriott due to discounts received – GMSA…hopes its choice does not “tarnish the good relationship” it enjoys with Pegasus HotelThe Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) said yesterday that its decision to switch from the Pegasus Hotel to the “spacious” Marriott Hotel for a business luncheon was based on the value of the discounts and rebates it received from the latter.The entity expressed hope that its decision “does not tarnish the good relationship” it enjoys with the Guyana Pegasus, since it intends to continue to utilize the hotel on conditions that are mutually beneficial.GMSA’s comments come in wake of accusations by Pegasus Owner, Robert Badal that the entity may be heavily politicized as it cancelled a booking of the Pegasus’ Savannah Suite made during late last month for the same event without notifying management. Badal alleged that the decision to move the event to the recently commissioned Marriott Hotel was based on President Donald Ramotar’s instructions, who is expected to speak at the upcoming business meeting.The Manufacturing Association said that its activities and programmes are driven firstly by the needs of its member companies, and secondly, to optimize financial returns in order to keep the association viable.As such, it emphasized that its April 22 event was moved to the almost tax-funded hotel, after considering its estimated ticket sales, the value of sponsorship from the business community, the size of the Marriott’s conference room and the availability of the Marriott’s room for the entire duration of the business luncheon.The GMSA said that it is a practical Business Support Organisation and one of its key objectives is to maintain political neutrality.It reminded that it was the first to introduce in 2011, the concept of political discourses between presidential candidates and the business community. Hence, in April and May of that year, it hosted three successful business luncheons with AFC’s Khemraj Ramjattan, Opposition leader, David Granger and President Donald Ramotar.The series of political parlays is being repeated this year so that the business community can engage the candidates of the main political parties on their blueprint for business development.Additionally, GMSA sought to make clear that for many years the Pegasus Hotel has always been its first preference for conferences, training programmes, business luncheons and other activities.“However, this is not the first time that the GMSA’s Board of Directors took a decision to hold an activity away from that venue.  There were occasions when the Pegasus was unavailable on our chosen dates, or the seating accommodation was insufficient for the size of the audience or participants.”“We have made use of a number of alternative venues in and outside of the city (incl. Regency Suites and the Princess Hotel).  It would be useful to point out that two of our last three major events were held at the Princess Hotel due to the unavailability of the Savannah Suite at the Pegasus,” the Manufacturing and Services Association added.April 21, 2015Badal says – GMSA lies about Marriott discountPegasus Hotel’s owner, Robert BadalOwner of Pegasus Hotel, Robert Badal, says that the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) was not being truthful over the weekend about the reasons it switched to its luncheon to the nearby Marriott Hotel.On Saturday, Badal said that GMSA, without any notifications, decided that it was holding the business luncheon, set for tomorrow, at the nearby Marriott Hotel which opened last Thursday.On Sunday, GMSA in explaining the switch said that it was offered discounts and rebates from Marriott.It said that the April 22 event was moved to the taxpayers’ funded hotel, after considering its estimated ticket sales, the value of sponsorship from the business community, the size of the Marriott’s conference room and the availability of that hotel’s room for the entire duration of the business luncheon.GMSA insisted that one of its key objectives is to maintain political neutrality.Additionally, GMSA said that for many years the Pegasus Hotel has always been its first preference for conferences, training programmes, business luncheons and other activities.“However, this is not the first time that the GMSA’s Board of Directors took a decision to hold an activity away from that venue.  There were occasions when the Pegasus was unavailable on our chosen dates, or the seating accommodation was insufficient for the size of the audience or participants.”“We have made use of a number of alternative venues in and outside of the city (including Regency Suites and the Princess Hotel).  It would be useful to point out that two of our last three major events were held at the Princess Hotel due to the unavailability of the Savannah Suite at the Pegasus,” the association added.Badal had claimed that the political inference by the Government and President Donald Ramotar caused GMSA to switch the event.He said, yesterday, that the response by the GMSA shows how distant its executives are from the truth.He said that even though GMSA confirmed a booking on March 23, last, to host a question session with President Donald Ramotar, the body switched the event to the Guyana Marriott without the courtesy of notifying Pegasus. At no time did GMSA discuss menu or the number of persons attending.“From previous events, the GMSA never fully utilized týhe capacity of our conference room. And while as a member we always gave them our best discount. Neither price nor venue capacity was in question in this particular case.”Badal insisted that GMSA always, over the years, insisted on the lowest prices from Pegasus.He said that he has since been told by a GMSA’s senior executive that the association will be paying more than double the price normally charged by Pegasus.“Perhaps the President of GMSA would share with us the actual number of members who paid for the event after its conclusion on Wednesday.”The Guyana Marriott Hotel was commissioned last week by Government but from its inception and construction, it was mired in controversy.There was secrecy and cloudiness over the investors, the financing structure and its more-than-generous tax and other concessions.The hundreds of jobs promised during its construction never materialized with the Chinese contractor importing labour.The hotel has not received the blessings from the National Assembly and its opening last Thursday was shrouded by noisy protests.Government opened the US$51M hotel without its critical entertainment section, comprising night club and casino incomplete.Local hotels have expressed worry over the unfair competition that they will face especially in light of the tax and other concessions granted to Marriott.April 22, 2015Marriott’s investors remain a mysteryGovernment opened the Marriott Hotel in Kingston amidst much hype last Thursday but downplayed the presence of one of its potential investors who is to take control of 67 percent of its equity shares. There was no announcement during the ribbon-cutting ceremony that XuThere was mention of the presence of a Hong Kong investor last week during the opening of the US$51M Marriott Hotel in Kingston.Han, one of the two Hong Kong businessman named, was even present.Later that evening when a reception was held at the US$51M-plus hotel, there was also no mention of the presence of the potential investor. He was not announced to the media and other invitees present.There has been much speculation about the investors who through a company, Ace Square Investments Limited, will plug in US$8M and gain control of two-thirds of the equity shares.In May last year, Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), the special company created to oversee the hotel’s construction and operations, announced that the principal investors in AHI are National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), which has invested US$4M, and BVI-registered ACE Square.ACE Square, through a BVI-registered holding company, Big Splendor Limited, is controlled by two Hong Kong businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan, and Xu Han.The Hong Kong businessmen were tipped to also run the entertainment complex of Marriott Hotel which comprises the planned, money-making casino and nightclub, but AHI announced earlier this year that Marriott International has instead been given the contract to do so.Last year, the Opposition, through Desmond Trotman, a former Parliamentarian, filed a court case blocking the hotel from transferring the lands and mortgaging it. It effectively blocked more than US$20M from coming in from the investors. The Hong Kong investment was also blocked.The calls are now on for government to sell shares of the hotel to locals instead of a virtually unknown foreign investor.Questions about the identity of the principals of Ace Square have been among the issues that have been casting a shadow over the investments of Marriott Hotel.The Opposition has questioned government over the existence of the investors and the logic behind giving control of the hotel to an investor for a mere US$8M when the facilities are worth in excess of US$51M.The hotel, with its entertainment centre still incomplete, opened with the presence of protestors last week. The hotel has been touted as a top project but its financing from taxpayers’ monies without oversight from the National Assembly has raised continuous questions.There was a glaring absence of the Opposition at the event even though they were formally invited.The 197-room Marriott Hotel in Kingston was hailed by government as one of the special projects to boost tourism and hospitality. But it started off on a rocky road. From the transfer of the lands to the murky details of the financing, there were many questions from the Opposition, leading to clashes even in the National Assembly.It was only after continuous pressure that government finally released a partial feasibility study of the project.From the inception of the project, it has been one filled with controversy, as billions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent by government on the edifice and without the authority of the National Assembly. It was supposed to be a private/public partnership project. It ended up mostly being a government one.September 24, 2015Marriott in danger of defaulting on Republic Bank payments…final price tag remains a mystery, Casino stalledAHI’s newly installed Chairman, Beverly HarperMarriott Hotel is reportedly in danger of defaulting on a payment to Republic Bank.The newly installed Chairman of the Board of Directors, Beverly Harper, however insists that Marriott is in no danger of defaulting on any of its payments, and that the hotel is in fact currently turning a profit. Whatever payments are owed will be made.Beverly Harper, the Ansa Mcal Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors at Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), the Special Purpose Company established to own the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown.The new board was installed earlier this month with its other directors. They included Laurie London, Derrick Cummings and Patricia Bacchus. AHI was previously headed by Winston Brassington and Marcia Nadir-Sharma.This publication spoke with Harper briefly yesterday and queried the state of affairs at the company, and she insists that while tabulations are still being made, the hotel is in fact making a profit, and will be able to make its payments to Republic Bank.A well-placed insider told this publication, however, that the Marriott Hotel, some six months after its opening earlier this year, is currently unable to make any repayments—principal and interest—on the US$15.3M that was secured from that bank as part of a syndicated loan. The property is mortgaged to Republic Bank as a result of the transaction.AHI had initially approached the bank to secure a consortium of investors to the tune of US$27M but this was cut short as a result of court action filed by then opposition Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman. That court action resulted in only US$15.3M being transferred from Republic Bank to Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) for the multi-million dollar hotel.That banking institution currently has a lien on the property and almost seven acres of land. Scheduled to operate at a loss for a number of years before reaping a profit, as well as taking on additional loans following its opening, Harper told this publication yesterday that mere months after opening its doors, the Marriott Hotel is in fact making a profit. She was however unable to provide any details in relation to what level of profits is being made.She was also unable to provide any details in relation to the final cost for the construction of the Marriott Hotel, since works have been stalled on the Casino and Entertainment Complex of the facility.The final cost will have to also include interest accrued during construction of the hotel in addition to the millions spent for the preparation of the site, including the destruction of the Luckhoo Pool and the sinking of a Well facility to supply the hotel with water.The Casino and Entertainment Complex of the facility was proposed at an additional US$16M. According to Harper, since the installation of the new board earlier this month there has only been one meeting and no decisions have been made on the Casino and Entertainment Complex which is currently at a standstill.The Marriott Hotel was proposed to be constructed at a cost of some US$58M. Of that amount US$8M was supposed to have come from private investors while, a US$27M syndicated loan was sought from Republic Bank and the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) putting in an additional US$19.4M.This did not materialize and Brassington at the time had blamed, among other things, the court action which stalled the release of money from Republic Bank. NICIL ended up putting in some USS$35M into the project, the majority of which comes as an interest free loan with a 15 year hiatus on repayments.AHI is also currently the subject of a forensic audit ordered by Government and this publication understands that this process could be completed within two weeks time. Kaieteur News was told that a preliminary list of queries was submitted to Executive Director of the AHI, Brassington at the end of last month and he has since submitted a detailed response which is being assessed by the State Auditors.This publication understands that following an analysis of the responses proffered by Brassington, subsequent queries could be made after which time a final report would be submitted to Finance Minister Winston Jordan.September 25, 2015Republic Bank now ‘de facto’ owners of Marriott…taxpayers to get not one cent for its US$40M invested …Hotel losing $100M monthly-Robert BadalThe US$56M taxpayer-funded Marriott Hotel is chalking up close to $100M per month in operating losses when accrued interest payments and depreciation is taken into account. Furthermore taxpayers will receive not one cent for their almost US$40M invested in the project that was promoted by the ousted Bharrat Jagdeo led regime.This is the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pegasus Hotel, Robert Badal, who contends that the situation is becoming even direr with each day that passes.Badal—one of Guyana’s leading businessmen—is of the opinion that Republic Bank, the institution which plugged a US$15.25M loan into the project, is in fact the current de facto owners of the largely taxpayer-funded project. Badal has since warned that even as “the new Government awaits the receipt of a forensic audit to determine the future of the hotel,http://www.soccerpro.us.com/Argentina/, Republic Bank, which has a mortgage on the property for the US$15.25 loan, is accumulating interest income with every passing day.”According to Badal, “(with) every day that passes, taxpayers equity in the hotel is eroded by Republic Bank’s interest on loans extended.” He tabulated that this amounts to in excess of $25M per month.  “In other words, Republic Bank with its US$15.25M in loans plus accrued interest accumulated during the construction phase, and to date is the de facto owner of this property.” The businessman has since opined that “it is uncertain what the senior management of the bank considered in approving this loan, given all the information in the public domain and how it would explain the impending default to its shareholders both local and in neighbouring Trinidad.”Pegasus owner, Robert BadalBadal suggests, “In the end the Bank would have to write off these accrued interest payments, as, under no circumstance, would any investor pay more than the US$15.25M in loan extended because the Hotel is not covering its operating expenses.”Kaieteur News recently reported that Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), the Special Purpose Company established to build and own the Marriott Hotel, in Kingston, Georgetown, is in fact in danger of defaulting on its payments to Republic Bank.Badal’s financial observations also come on the heels of recently appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors, Beverly Harper, insisting the Hotel is currently turning a profit. She was unable to substantiate this with any facts or figures.Badal recalled that over the past five years a lot of criticisms have been directed at the Marriott Hotel by the wider public. “Among these were the lack of transparency, closed door deals with Marriott International Hotels and a ghost investor, lack of financial and economic feasibility, no parliamentary approval, waste of taxpayers’ resources, no Guyanese workers in its labour force during construction.”According to Badal, “I had contended that Government’s entry into the hotel business using taxpayers’ resources was an indecent assault on the local private sector and that the over supply of rooms relative to demand, would cripple the local hotel industry resulting in lower Government revenue…“I had also predicted that the Marriott Hotel would not cover its energy cost nor accrued interest payments and that the real intention of the powers behind it was to fleece taxpayers.”He noted that despite strong objections and protests from both the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), while in political opposition, both Marriott International and Republic Bank entered the deal for the construction and operation of the Hotel. According to Badal, the deception was foisted on the nation by the former (Bharrat) Jagdeo administration, NICIL’s Board of Directors and Winston Brassington, “who together, promised a five star, luxury flag carrier hotel employing 500 persons but instead, delivered a grand deception of the Guyanese taxpayers.”“Equally contributing to this deception were prominent members of the local private sector bodies who would spare no time in dancing to the tune of a corrupt regime.”According to Badal, “Now that the hotel has opened and begging for business those supporters are not seen around it…In that event the poor Guyanese taxpayers would receive not one cent in return for the more than US$40M invested in this Grand Deception.”September 29,2015Marriott project cost grossly understatedWinston Brassington, the Executive Director of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has in fact spent more money from the NICIL coffers on the Marriott Hotel than was previously disclosed.In the process, he has misrepresented the overall project cost by more than US$25M.Information now coming to light has revealed that while Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI)—the special purpose company established to build and own the Marriott Hotel has expended some US$56M on the project to date, NICIL was in fact spending additional monies on the project, monies it never publicly disclosed.This publication has unearthed information suggesting that Brassington authorized the expenditure of in excess of US$5M on the Marriott project, separate and distinct from AHI’s expenditure.To make matters worse, the monies are not represented as ‘recoverable’, it will never be repaid to NICIL by AHI, as is the case with other amounts put into the project.This publication has learnt that NICIL and not AHI—the Marriott owners—was the entity that paid for the road works surrounding the controversial project.Additionally, Brassington used from NICIL coffers, money to pay to HVS Consulting and Valuation for a Feasibility Study for the project.HVS submitted its document, costing in excess of US$2M to AHI, despite the fact that NICIL paid for the study.Brassington also utilized monies directly out of the NICIL coffers to pay for the sinking of a well to supply the internationally branded hotel with water.Additional spending incurred by NICIL on the project and never represented in the AHI Financials, also went to a consultancy firm which supervised the construction works by the Chinese Contractor.Another glaring revelation regarding transactions for the Hotel centered on the prime ocean front property which NICIL, headed by Brassington sold to AHI, which was also at the time headed by Brassington.AHI paid US$1M (G$200M) for the almost 10 acres of land but independent property evaluators have since valued the property to be worth almost US$5M (G$1B).Kaieteur News has since consulted with a number of financial experts that have labeled Brassington’s disclosures on monies spent on the project as ‘deliberate deception.’According to AHI’s records, US$56M was spent on the project to bring it to the stage it is currently at but consolidating the NICIL’s expenditure, would in fact bring the total cost of the project to almost US$100M—this, not counting concessions and tax holiday’s granted to AHI.Disaggregating the disclosed US$56M reveals that Republic Bank loaned some US$15.25M to AHI as a Syndicated Loan, while all of the remaining disclosed amounts totaling US$40.75M came directly from NICIL to AHI.This is separate and distinct from monies NICIL spent on the project but were not represented in the AHI accounts.NICIL had originally given AHI a US$15.4M loan, interest free and to be repaid only when “cash flow enables.”Additionally, NICIL also invested US$4M and had approached Republic Bank Trinidad to put together a consortium of investors to put in another US$27M.Court action was however filed preventing the release of the full amount of US$27M.Republic Bank managed to transfer only US$15.25M and this resulted in NICIL putting in an additional US$21M.To compound matters, the Hotel is still a far way from being completed with the Casino and Entertainment Complex—critical to the hotel’s revenue stream and financial viability—still to be constructed.This section of the hotel would require an additional US$16M, the source of which is yet to be disclosed.As such the construction cost would be stated US$56M spent to date; US$16M for the Casino and Entertainment Complex when that comes on street; the US$2.7 spent on rerouting the sewerage; interest waived by NICIL is US$3 million; US$2.1 for project design;  NICIL spent on the project but was never represented in AHI financials; US$4M lost through the sale of the land to AHI by NICIL; US$21.35M in additional financing from NICIL; concessions granted and the still to be tabulated interest owed to republic bank that accrued during the construction of the hotel.September 29, 2015Marriott Hotel not in default of loan repayment – says AHIA statement from Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) said that it wishes to correct two misleading and inaccurate reports by the Kaieteur News. One article was titled “Marriott in danger of defaulting on Republic Bank payments” on Thursday September 24, and another “Republic Bank now ‘de facto’ owners of Marriott” was published on Friday.As part of the legal financial arrangements with Republic Bank Limited (RBL), payment on the interest on the debt provided for the construction of the hotel is not due until the end of 2016, and repayment of the principal is not due until 2017, AHI said.“In fact, during this period, interest will be capitalized in accordance with the loan agreements. Therefore there is no outstanding payment owed by AHI/Marriott Hotel to RBL.”Based on actual and projected performance of the hotel, AHI said, Marriott management projects that the hotel will deliver a net operating profit (measured in cash flows) by year end.“It also projects that the existing working capital is adequate to cover all operating expenses and as such the shareholder will not be called upon to inject any funds into the operations of the hotel.”The management of Marriott has reported to the AHI Board of Directors, that for the month of August, the hotel occupancy was 52% representing an average occupancy of over 100 rooms per night for the month. Occupancy of the hotel in July was 48%. Food and Beverage performance is also exceeding its budget, AHI said.November 12, 2015Govt prepared to sell Marriott Hotel – Finance MinisterBy Kiana WilburgIf the price is right, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said, Government would be willing to rid itself of the controversial Marriott Hotel located in Kingston, Georgetown.Finance Minister, Winston JordanJordan was asked to provide an update on what Government has decided to do with the Hotel it inherited from the previous regime.He recalled that the government has made it clear on several occasions that it has no intentions of being competitively involved in the hotel industry.When asked about the possibility of Government selling the hotel, Jordan responded, “Let me put it this way, if Government gets a credible offer or buyer, it will divest itself of the hotel.”The Finance Minister said that Cabinet has established a subcommittee that is looking at the issue and the best way of relieving the government of any responsibility in owning the hotel.He noted that the Committee includes members such as Business Minster, Dominic Gaskin and Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma.The Finance Minister reiterated, “Government is determined not to own the hotel.”Minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes had, early on, made it clear that Government does not want to be in the business of owning and operating hotels.The US$60M Marriot Hotel was met with much contention by the then Opposition bloc A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), when it was being constructed under the previous regime. The project had been criticized for lacking transparency.Managing the construction shares of the company was Atlantic Hotel Incorporate (AHI), a subsidiary of the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) which falls under the Government.AHI had invested over US$20M in taxpayers’ dollars and was looking to raise US$27M more from a syndicated loan arrangement through Republic Bank, Trinidad.Another US$8M would have been coming from two private investors reportedly out of Hong Kong, which would have subsequently led to them gaining 67 percent control of the hotel. However, the transfer was blocked via a court case that was file by then Parliamentarian, Desmond Trotman.The Marriott HotelThe Marriott was also given “extravagant incentives and benefits”, which left other local hotel operators screaming over the unleveled playing field.Despite the controversy, the hotel officially opened its doors last April 16 to begin its phase one operations while other sections of the Marriot are still under construction.Three months later, the 197-room facility was already showing signs that it was not going to be the overnight success the PPP claimed it would be.In fact, Marriott racked up a $60M loss up to the end of June, according to Government officials. The state-owned hotel’s biggest expense is its electricity consumption. Its monthly bill to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is in excess of $25M.This has been a major factor why construction of a critical component of the hotel- the adjoining entertainment complex- has not started.Marriott’s electricity tab would contrast starkly with that of its nearby competitor, the Pegasus Hotel, whose electricity consumption averages $15M monthly.Marriott also has a five-megawatt generator with the capacity to power the Kingston area. It has been using this from time to time.While in Opposition, the AFC, of which Hughes is a member, had made it clear that the party would revisit, review and if necessary impose sanctions on the hotel should the party get into Government.However, the Minister explained that while the former Opposition was critical of how the hotel was handled, it has no reservations about the actual Marriot franchise itself.“I want people to understand that the concerns we had about the Marriott were purely in terms of the fact that we as an administration did not feel that the Government should spend (US) millions on a hotel,” related the Tourism Minister.She said they had felt that the private sector or international investors should have been the ones to put their money into the Hotel, without spending taxpayers’ dollars.Minister Hughes had said that while she and the coalition were on the campaign trail, they encountered communities just off the East Bank Demerara Public Road without electricity, portable water and with insufficient infrastructure.Minister Hughes had said that some of these communities, like Friendship Squatting Area, are on the way to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The Minister related that she wondered whether the millions in US dollars could have been spent towards improving such areas, instead of one hotel.According to the Tourism official, Guyana has an ample number of local hotels and accommodations, which can serve to build the tourism sector already.  She contended that for these hotels to improve standards an “incentive regime” needs to be adopted. This would ensure that local hoteliers are given the requisite opportunity to invest in Guyana’s tourism industry.“We have a tremendous advantage in Guyana, in that most of the hotels are owned by Guyanese and have been here for the last 25 years trying to push the industry forward. And therefore, some of the concessions, I feel that are given to foreign investors, should be given to the (local) hotels,” said Minister Hughes.For a long time Minister Hughes said that smaller hotels (with less than 30 rooms) did not qualify for concessions, but shared that as head of the tourism sector, she wants to put forward an argument to Cabinet which will change that.December 12, 2015Brassington engaged criminal companies for Marriott construction – Goolsarran-Forensic Audit Report cites numerous irregularities regarding Hotel contractAfter examining the projects undertaken by the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, said that the practices of the company were “lawless, illegal and reckless.”NICIL CEO, Winston BrassingtonHis comments were based on his findings during a forensic audit on the company which he completed over a month ago.Despite the size and complexity of its operations, the Chartered Accountant said that NICIL does not have its own procurement rules. He said that this is a key requirement of the Procurement Act, taking into account that NICIL has for several years, engaged in the award of contracts.In the circumstances, Goolsarran said that it would have been more appropriate for NICIL to involve the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) in the assessment of tenders received for the award of contracts, as is the case of other State institutions that do not have their own procurement rules and regulations.In NICIL’s defence, the entity’s Executive Director, Winston Brassington contended that the opening of all bids is normally done in the presence of the staff of the Auditor General’s office and that NICIL carries out internal assessments before contracts are awarded.He further stated that NICIL staff would collect the bids received; review each bid submission for tender procedure compliance; and, where required, summarize key details of each bid. A paper is then prepared and presented to the various Boards and Cabinet for final decision.But Goolsarran said that Brassington’s response did not address NICIL’s failure to follow the requirement of Section 24 of the Procurement Act. In addition, he said that the presence of the Audit Office at the opening of bids does not negate, or is not a substitute for, this requirement.The Chartered Accountant said that internal assessments by the staff of NICIL lack the much-needed degree of independence to evaluate tenders received, especially for a large project such as the construction of the Marriott Hotel.The former Auditor General spoke on the selection of the contractor for the construction of the Marriott Hotel. He said that of the 23 local and foreign firms that applied for prequalification, seven firms were shortlisted.Forensic Auditor for NICIL, Anand Goolsarran“However, it was noted that several reputable international firms were not shortlisted. According to NICIL, only two firms submitted bids. SCG International (Trinidad & Tobago) Ltd. was rated the lower evaluated tenderer with a bid price of US$65 million, some US$24 million higher than the estimated cost of US$41 million. NICIL indicated that SCG’s bid was considerably lower than the other bidder,” Goolsarran said.He continued, “NICIL also indicated that both bidders were requested to submit alternative designs with a view to reducing their bid prices without compromising on the standards for a Marriott-type hotel. However, Section 41 of the Procurement Act states that there shall be no negotiation between the procuring entity and any of the bidders. In the absence of its own procurement rules, NICIL should have been guided by this requirement.”Goolsarran added, “Up to the time of reporting, despite being reminded to do so, NICIL was yet to submit information as to who the other bidder was and what was the bid price, including his revised bid and other related information. In the absence of this information, the basis of the award of the contract to SCG International could not be properly determined.”The Chartered Accountant said that NICIL further indicated that SCG’s revised tender was considerably lower than that of the other bidder. However, Goolsarran said that the size of the hotel was reduced from 274,032 square feet to 190,467 square feet, a 31 percent reduction in size. He noted that the LEED certification was excluded as well as other costs estimated at US$1.5 million.“On 16 November 2011, AHI (represented by Mr. Brassington) entered into a contract with SCG for the design and construction of the hotel in the sum of US$50.918 million, a 22 percent reduction in price. This was a mere 12 days before the November 28, 2011 elections.It is not normal practice for major contracts, such as the Marriott Hotel, to be awarded so close to National Elections, for obvious reasons. In addition, there was no approval from the NICIL Board nor from Cabinet at the time the contract was entered into.“It was not until September 27, 2012, some eleven months later, that such approval was granted, with a retroactive effective date of 30 September 2011,” Goolsarran noted.The Chartered Accountant recalled that it was in early July 2010, when news reports surfaced in Trinidad and Tobago of SCG International being investigated in connection with the award of contracts totaling TT$2 billion, relating to the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT) without any form of tendering. It was also awarded several other government contracts.He said that the Police had raided SCG’s office and seized documents relating to UDECOTT. Goolsarran said that when this information was presented to Brassington, he commented that he was not aware that SCG was convicted for wrongdoing and that NICIL could not disqualify the contractor on the basis of allegations.He added, “The selection of the Engineering Supervision Consultant also raises questions about integrity of NICIL’s internal assessments of tenders. The selected firm, M.A. Angeliades Inc., was charged with underpaying 300 workers it had employed at nearly one dozen New York substation construction projects.”“It was disqualified from participating in the projects of the School Construction Authority until July 2015. On June 30, 2010, the firm’s head, M. A. Angeliades, pleaded guilty to felony and falsification of business records. He and his daughter were to have resigned from their positions in the firm which was to have been monitored by an independent private sector Inspector General through September 2013.“Despite this, the contract between M. A. Angeliades Inc. and AHI was executed on August 6, 2012 and was signed in person by Mr. Angeliades.”In response to the above, Brassington provided as evidence, a letter to Goolsarran dated March 30, 2011 from the lawyers of M. A. Angeliades Inc. indicating that the case was dismissed and that there were no pending litigations.However, the letter made it clear that the period referred to was December 31, 2009, and that the case was People v. M.A. Angeliades Inc., Ind. No. 2686/2009.“Suffice it to state that the charges against the company were set aside after a non-prosecution agreement was filed in the court, requiring the company to compensate the workers who were underpaid, failing which the criminal charges would be restored,” Goolsarran expressed.He added, “One of the questions comprising the evaluation criteria was: “Has your organization’s licence ever been revoked in said jurisdiction or trade category?” However, this part of the evaluation worksheet was left blank for both bidders.”The forensic auditor said that this raises the pertinent question as to whether the omission was an oversight or a deliberate act.AHI commented that the information was not filled in because M.A. Angeliades Inc. did not have a revocation of licence.December 15, 2015Construction of Marriott Hotel…Brassington hid $1B in secret accountA forensic audit report has revealed that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Industrial andNICIL CEO Winston BrassingtonCommercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, collected $1B from Guyana National Cooperative Bank for the construction of the Marriott Hotel but never spent it. In fact, it was hidden in a secret account and was discovered in NICIL’s books.This is according to Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran. He documented this finding in his audit report on NICIL.After making the discovery, Goolsarran challenged Brassington to state why this money was not returned if it was not used. The NICIL Chief Executive Officer did not offer many details in this regard except to say that the money has since been returned.Notwithstanding Brassington’s comments, Goolsarran maintained, “This amount was not expended. It remained in the books of NICIL as of December 31, 2014 as a liability. It is not clear why, after two years, the funds were not returned to the Bank.”The US$60M Marriott Hotel was met with much contention by the then Opposition bloc A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), when it was being constructed under the previous regime. The project had been criticized for lacking transparency.Managing the construction shares of the company was Atlantic Hotel Incorporate (AHI), a subsidiary of the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) which falls under the Government.AHI had invested over US$20M of taxpayers’ dollars and was looking to raise US$27M more from a syndicated loan arrangement through Republic Bank, Trinidad.Another US$8M would have been coming from two private investors reportedly out of Hong Kong,Forensic Auditor of NICIL, Anand Goolsarranwhich would have subsequently led to them gaining 67 percent control of the hotel. However, the transfer was blocked via a court case that was filed by then Parliamentarian, Desmond Trotman.The Marriott was also given “extravagant incentives and benefits”, which left other local hotel operators screaming over the unlevel playing field.Despite the controversy, the hotel officially opened its doors last April 16 to begin its phase one operations even as other sections of the Marriott are still under construction.Three months later, the 197-room facility was already showing signs that it was not going to be the overnight success the PPP claimed it would be.In fact, Marriott racked up a $60M loss up to the end of June, according to Government officials. The state-owned hotel’s biggest expense is its electricity consumption. Its monthly bill to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is in excess of $25M.This has been a major factor why construction of a critical component of the hotel- the adjoining entertainment complex- has not started.Marriott’s electricity tab would contrast starkly with that of its nearby competitor, the Pegasus Hotel, whose electricity consumption averages $15M monthly.Marriott also has a five-megawatt generator with the capacity to power the Kingston area. It has been using this from time to time.While in Opposition, the AFC, of which Tourism Minister, Cathy Hughes is a member, had made it clear that the party would revisit, review and if necessary impose sanctions should the party get into Government.However, the Minister explained that while the former Opposition was critical of how the hotel was handled, it has no reservations about the actual Marriot franchise itself.“I want people to understand that the concerns we had about the Marriott were purely in terms of the fact that we as an administration did not feel that the Government should spend (US) millions on a hotel,” related the Tourism Minister.She said they had felt that the private sector or international investors should have been the ones to put their money into the hotel, without spending taxpayers’ dollars.Minister Hughes said that while she and the coalition were on the campaign trail, they encountered communities just off the East Bank Demerara Public Road without electricity, potable water and with insufficient infrastructure.Minister Hughes had said that some of these communities, like Friendship Squatting Area, are located en route to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. The Minister related that she wondered whether the millions in US dollars could have been spent towards improving such areas, instead of on one hotel.According to the Tourism official, Guyana has an ample number of local hotels and accommodations, which can serve to build the tourism sector already.  She contended that for these hotels to improve standards an “incentive regime” needs to be adopted. This would ensure that local hoteliers are given the requisite opportunity to invest in Guyana’s tourism industry.“We have a tremendous advantage in Guyana, in that most of the hotels are owned by Guyanese and have been here for the last 25 years trying to push the industry forward. And therefore, some of the concessions, I feel that are given to foreign investors, should be given to the (local) hotels,” said Minister Hughes.For a long time Minister Hughes said that smaller hotels (with less than 30 rooms) did not qualify for concessions, but shared that as Head of the tourism sector, she wants to put forward an argument to Cabinet which will change that.Finance Minister Winston Jordan had said that Government would be willing to rid itself of the controversial Marriott Hotel once the price is right. He recalled that the government has made it clear on several occasions that it has no intentions of being competitively involved in the hotel industry.December 16, 2015Construction of Marriott Hotel…Hiding $1B in secret account is financial lawlessnessPresidential Advisor, Dr. Clive Thomas… Brassington also acted crookedly with the nation–Presidential AdvisorPresidential Advisor on Sustainable Development, Dr. Clive Thomas, says that there is simply no rational excuse Winston Brassington could have for hiding $1B in a secret account.The money was intended to help fund the construction of the controversial Marriott Hotel.Thomas said that such actions reflect “financial lawlessness and deceitfulness.”Thomas’s comments come in wake of the forensic audit report on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL). The audit was conducted by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.The report revealed that Brassington collected $1B from Guyana National Cooperative Bank to aid the construction of the Marriott Hotel but never spent it.Instead, it was hidden in a secret account. It was later discovered in NICIL’s books during Goolsarran’s audit of the company.After making the discovery, Goolsarran challenged Brassington to state why this money was not returnedNICIL Executive Director, Winston Brassingtonif it was not used.The NICIL Chief Executive Officer did not offer many details in this regard except to say that the money has since been returned.But Goolsarran said,”This amount was not expended. It remained in the books of NICIL as of December 31, 2014 as a liability. It is not clear why, after two years, the funds were not returned to the Bank.”Dr. Thomas said that Brassington’s actions constitute “financial lawlessness and dishonesty.” He noted that this is the kind of attitude “which stains and corrupts everything he is involved in.”The Head of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) said, “By hiding the money in a private account and not spending it, I am only left to conclude that he parked the money there to have his way with it when he and his cohorts were ready.”Additionally, Thomas said that an even more worrying development rises to the surface when one “examines the depth of Brassington’s deceitfulness.”The economist recalled that the financial funding for the construction of the hotel saw a US$15.3M loan from Republic Bank.However, Dr. Thomas said that had AHI used the $1B (US$5M) it collected from the Guyana NationalForensic Auditor of NICIL,Bob Probert Red Wings Jersey, Anand GoolsarranCooperative Bank, it would have only had cause to secure US$10M from Republic Bank which would have reduced the rate of the interest incurred.Instead, the $1B was not used for the purpose intended and sat for over two years in a secret account.Dr. Thomas said, “To truly grasp what Brassington did, I want the readers to ponder this. Imagine you are building a home and you need a small loan in the sum of $10M. Your mother or father gives you $5M. Would you then go to the bank and borrow $10M when you could simply take $5M and pay a smaller interest?“Well that is what Brassington did. By his very reckless and selfish actions, Brassington put the nation in even more debt. This is just another case to prove that he seems to be the master at financial lawlessness.”He added, “But that transaction does not make sense and there is no rational excuse Brassington could have to justify doing that. It is insane and dishonest to collect the money from the bank and upon failing to utilize it, hesitate for over two years to return it.“Moreover, I would say that it is treachery to the highest order to place the nation in such an indebted position when it could have been avoided or reduced to a considerable degree.”Additionally, Dr. Thomas said that Brassington also acted “crookedly with the nation as he never told the public about all the sources of funding for the construction of the Marriott Hotel.“It is because of this audit that we are made aware that Brassington and his allies collected $1B from the Guyana National Cooperative Bank.”The Marriott Hotel which could cost close to US$100M was met with much contention by the then Opposition bloc A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), when it was being constructed under the previous regime. The project had been criticized for lacking transparency.Managing the construction shares of the company was Atlantic Hotel Incorporate, a subsidiary of NICIL which falls under the Government.Marriott racked up a $60M loss up to the end of June 2015, according to Government officials. The state-owned hotel’s biggest expense is its electricity consumption. Its monthly bill to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is in excess of $25M.This has been a major factor why construction of a critical component of the hotel – the adjoining entertainment complex – has not started.December 22, 2015US$5M in “hidden” account…NICIL doesn’t have to explain where money comes from –Brassington By Kiana Wilburg Prior to the findings of a damning forensic audit report, neither the media nor the public was aware of where NICIL collected monies from to invest in the construction of the controversial Marriott Hotel.NICIL CEO, Winston BrassingtonThe said report revealed that NICIL collected some $1.7B from the Guyana Water Authority, the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB).Yesterday Brassington was asked about the absence of such an explanation prior to yesterday’s press conference. NICIL’s Chief Executive Officer, Winston Brassington said, “NICIL doesn’t have to explain where it got its monies from for the Marriott Hotel.”The press conference was held at NICIL’s Kingston office. His press briefing came just one day before Cabinet was expected to discuss the findings of the NICIL report. The said report also recommends that the government pursue criminal charges based on the extent of financial lawlessness found within NICIL.In his defense, Brassington claimed that the forensic audit report was nothing but “opinions”. He said that there was no evidence to support the accusations being leveled against him in the report by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.He then circulated a press release which highlighted most of the newspaper articles carried by the private media on the forensic report.Reading from the said statement, Brassington noted that one of headlines by Kaieteur News, “Construction of Marriott Hotel…Brassington hid US$5m in a secret account” distorts the truth. He said the report does not specifically say that the account was a “secret” or “private” account.However, this publication made it known to Brassington that the headline was indeed accurate based on interviews conducted.He was then cornered twice to explain why the money collected, particularly the US$5m from GNCB, was not revealed to the public before.“We have been saying very clearly that the monies were received from GNBC into NICIL. And the monies were intended for the use of the hotel. Now it was well known that NICIL was funding most of the money going into the project other than Republic Bank and what was coming from the private investor.“It was known that NICIL was funding the hotel from monies it had. But the way your newspaper puts it is as if we hid this money in a secret account,” said Brassington.He continued, “Our accounts show that this money was received and went into our regular account where all of our deposits are made and it has been part of our liabilities. When it was returned to the bank this year it was removed from being a liability. So nothing was hidden. It is fully known to the NICIL Board and the auditor when they looked at NICIL and that’s it. It didn’t go over to AHI as yet because it was there in the event that the Republic Bank financing didn’t go through…NICIL gets its monies from many different sources.”Even with that explanation, Brassington failed to say why the US$5M from GNCB was not revealed to the media. In addition to this, Kaieteur News asked him to explain why this money was collected, not spent and remained sitting in NICIL’s accounts for two years.He was also asked to explain why he did not use the money for the hotel which would have resulted in NICIL securing US$10M loan instead of US$15M from Republic Bank. The reduction in the loan taken would have reduced the interest that it would have been required to pay at present.He said, “We always said that whatever money is needed for the project that wasn’t coming from the private investors or the Republic Bank financing would be invested by NICIL. NICIL doesn’t have to explain where it got its monies from. We get monies from many different sources…”December 23, 2015Marriott’s financial report confirms Brassington’s deceptionHead of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington misled the media about Marriott’s rate of occupancy. He gave the impression that the hotel’s occupancy over the past few months matches what was projected in the feasibility studies.Brassington hosted a press conference at NICIL on Monday last. At that forum, he was asked numerous questions on Marriott, some of which he answered and some of which he refused to give any response.  However, it seems like even the few answers he offered were falsehoods.When asked for a report on Marriott’s occupancy rate, Brassington related that the occupancy of the hotel is in line with what was projected.“Let me say that from my general knowledge, the hotel’s occupancy is as projected.”The feasibility study had projected a 48-60 per cent occupancy rate.Head of NICIL, Winston BrassingtonBrassington told the media, “As far as we understand, they are achieving what was projected. In any new hotel there is a period of ramp up, but I learnt that they (Marriott) are doing well. Take for example last month, they had 67 percent occupancy so occupancy is getting better, things are picking up, and this is how it will work.”However, an audit report on Marriott which has been leaked to this newspaper strikes out Brassington’s statements and exposes his deception. That report indicated that Marriott is at risk of going under.The report said that “there is a serious risk of default in the repayment of principal and interest on the Republic Bank loan should the hotel continue to make losses due to the less-than-desirable occupancy rate.”The auditor went on to state, “In the circumstances, it would be necessary for the loan to be paid off at the earliest opportunity. This is especially so, since the Republic Bank has a lien on the hotel and surrounding area via debenture and mortgages.”When asked about Marriott’s losses, Brassington refused to answer. He initially tried to dodge the questions, but soon came out plain and said that he wishes not to answer.He told Kaieteur News, “I wouldn’t want to comment on that.’He chose however, to stress that Marriott is footing all its operating expenses, “The government is not chipping in here at all.”The hotel is projected to earn a rate of return of 8.9 per cent on the US$27M on the Syndicated Loan sourced through Republic Bank Trinidad and Tobago that has to be repaid as a priority.December 24, 2015Brassington, Deputy sent on leave pending SARU, Police probe – Cabinet ordersNICIL CEO, Winston Brassington and NICIL’sDeputy Executive Officer, Marcia Nadir-SharmaAfter deliberating on the forensic audit report on the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Cabinet finally instructed that the report be forwarded to the Guyana Police Force and the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU).While this is being done, Cabinet also gave clear instructions for NICIL’s Chief Executive Officer, Winston Brassington, and his Deputy, Marcia Nadir-Sharma, to be sent immediately on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations.Making this statement yesterday was Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, during a press conference at the Ministry of the Presidency.Harmon said that the Cabinet meeting which was held on Tuesday could be described as an “historic one.” He said that Cabinet discussed critical matters which could have far reaching effects.The Government Minister noted one of those topics to be the damning NICIL report which was conducted by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.In the company of Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma, Harmon explained that Cabinet deliberated on various issues relating to the NICIL report and took into account the recommendations submitted by Goolsarran. He noted that recommendations were also submitted by Minister Sharma and those were also up for consideration.Harmon said, too, that Cabinet was advised that the NICIL Board of Directors had not yet deliberated on the report.Be that as it may, Cabinet instructed that the reports and accompanying notes of Goolsarran and Sharma, be handed over to the Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud and SARU for investigations.He said that the probe is intended to determine whether any acts of criminality were committed and to take the process forward.The Minister of State also informed the media that Cabinet gave instructions for the said report to be submitted to Auditor General, Deodat Sharma, for a more precise audit of the issues highlighted in the report.Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, is also expected to give instructions for a transaction audit to be conducted on NICIL.Harmon was reminded that Brassington during a press conference on Monday to defend his actions, made it clear that his decisions were approved by the former Cabinet.Should the police find areas of criminality regarding the involvement of the former Cabinet in Brassington’s actions, Harmon was asked what the next step would be?“Well I don’t want to second guess what the police will find or what the precise forensic audit will find from the AG’s office. But what I can say is in Cabinet’s view, there is sufficient information provided in the report for the agencies, which the report was sent to use as a basis for further action. Cabinet is not saying anybody should be charged.“Cabinet said that based on the reports, it should be sent to the relevant bodies for them to explore further and dig deeper, so as to determine whether criminality occurred  and if they do find criminality, then they should take whatever action they deem necessary.”Harmon said that with such a serious matter, the administration cannot act on impulse.Should Brassington ponder fleeing the jurisdiction, the Government Minister said that if the police feel that based on their investigations someone is likely to be charged, then they have adequate methods at their disposal to retain that person in Guyana.The forensic report on NICIL exposes how Brassington bypassed internationally recognized and credible companies only to engage criminal entities for the construction of the Marriott Hotel. He failed to justify how millions of dollars were spent in the Linden Mining Enterprise and to properly account for their assets.He also paved the way for NICIL to illegally fund the preparation of the Pradoville Two scheme, misappropriated billions of dollars, and kept $26B from the Consolidated Fund.Based on that and more, Goolsarran made several recommendations on the way forward regarding the entity. Most of these were followed by Cabinet, given their announcements.He also recommended that moves be made to institute criminal and/or disciplinary actions for the interception of State revenues totaling $26.858 billion in violation of Articles 216 of the Constitution and the related sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA).He said that disciplinary action is provided for under the following sections of the FMA Act: (a) Section 48 — Misuse of public moneys; (b) Section 49 — Liability for loss of public moneys; and (c) Section 85 — Liability of an official.Goolsarran also called for the institution of criminal and/or disciplinary actions against all those responsible for violating Article 217 of the Constitution, by causing expenditure to be incurred without parliamentary approval.The Chartered Accountant called for NICIL to be liquidated and for the appointment of a Receiver to oversee the liquidation process. He said, too, that Government should re-activate the Privatisation Unit as a department of the Ministry of Finance to manage the Government’s residual investments after liquidation proceedings have concluded.In this regard, he noted that the existing staff of NICIL could be transferred to the Ministry of Finance.January 04, 2016NICIL sold out state assets to finance Marriott – AuditAn audit into the state of affairs of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has revealed that the entity went on a selling spree in order to get cash to finance the construction of the Marriott Hotel.NICIL’s audit report stated that decisions were made to sell government assets with haste.It was noted that NICIL, under the leadership of the embattled Winston Brassington, decided to sell government’s share in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company and almost all the money received from that sale—US$20M—went into the construction of the Marriott.But that was not all. According to the audit report, evidence indicates that in addition to the disposal of GT&T shares, “there was an acceleration of the disposal of State properties/assets in order to secure financing for the construction of the Marriott Hotel.”A total of $9.7B was raked in from the sale of State assets/properties during the period 2002-2014.However, between 2011-2012 alone, during the time financing for the hotel was being hastily sought, NICIL sold off a whopping $7.142B or 73 percent of the total sale of assets from 2002 -2014.The Marriott hotelOn leave: Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL, Winston Brassington.It has been revealed too that NICIL’s financing of the construction of the hotel during the period 2010-2013 was $5.371B, comprising $800 million share capital, $3.316B in interest-free loan and $1.255B in advances.As at 7 July 2015, NICIL’s advances increased to $4.521 billion, giving a total funding of $8.637 billion.”Auditors have also noted—in the Marriott audit report—that the hotel is operating at a loss.It also stated that the government should proceed “with haste” to advertise for the sale of the hotel, bearing in mind that the Management Agreement with Marriott International is for 30 years, renewable for another 10 years.Auditors noted that the Agreement does provide for the sale of the hotel to a reputable individual or firm so that it can roll over to the new owners.“The vendor must have sufficient financial resources and liquidity to fulfill the obligations under the Agreement; be of good moral character with no criminal record; and does not have ownership interest in a branded hotel.”Currently managing the construction shares of the company is Atlantic Hotel Incorporate (AHI), a subsidiary of the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) which falls under the Government.“Once the hotel is sold, AHI should be liquidated. Alternatively, the Government could retain majority interest in the hotel and offer 49% of shares to the public and institutional investors, such as banks and insurance companies. However, the risks still remain in terms of the financial viability of the operations of the hotel,” the audit report suggested.The US$60M Marriot Hotel was met with much contention by the then Opposition bloc A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), during its construction under the previous regime.The project had been criticized for lacking transparency.The Marriott was also given “extravagant incentives and benefits”, which left other local hotel operators screaming over the unleveled playing field.Despite the controversy, the hotel officially opened its doors last April 16 to begin its phase one operations while other sections of the Marriot are still under construction.Three months later, the 197-room facility was already showing signs that it was not going to be the overnight success the PPP claimed it would be.In fact, Marriott racked up a $60M loss up to the end of June, according to Government officials. The state-owned hotel’s biggest expense is its electricity consumption. Its monthly bill to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is in excess of $25M.This has been a major factor why construction of a critical component of the hotel- the adjoining entertainment complex- has not started.Marriott’s electricity tab would contrast starkly with that of its nearby competitor, the Pegasus Hotel, whose electricity consumption averages $15M monthly.Marriott also has a five-megawatt generator with the capacity to power the Kingston area. It has been using this from time to time.January 14, 2016Former PM, Irfaan Ali, Teixeira, Dharamlall questioned in NICIL probeBy Jarryl BryanThe Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) has brought in former Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, and at leastFormer Prime Minister, Samuel Hindsthree Members of Parliament from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), for questioning regarding the revelations from the forensic audit into National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).This is according to PPP Chief Whip, Gail Teixieira, during a press conference at the PPP headquarters yesterday. She said that former Minister of Housing and Tourism, Irfaan Ali, Member of Parliament, Nigel Dharamlall, and herself were also questioned.According to Texieira, Ali was the first to be questioned, on January 6. Texieira and Dharamlall were questioned by the unit on Monday, while Hinds was questioned on Tuesday.Relating the events, Teixeira stated that on Monday last, she was paid a visit at home by the operatives.“They came to my house on Monday and said they had been checking on me and looking for me since last week. And they asked if I could come down,” she said. “So I came down, accompanied with my lawyer. Three of us have lawyers; we have not gone in to be interviewed without legal representation.”She said that while she had asked for leeway to be able to come down the next day, the operatives had insisted that she come down that very day and she had complied, accompanied by her lawyer, Bibi Shadick.While she admitted that the police who came to her house were polite and identified themselves, She juxtaposed this with the fact that everyone else was given dates to come in, but she was not afforded this.She stated that they were advised that auditor Anand Goolsarran’s findings or audit book had a number of allegations, including ones that could lead to criminal charges. Teixeira related that they were also advised that the police were addressing the matter in stages and that their voluntary submission to questioning was the firstPPP Chief Whip, Gail Teixeirasuch phase.Teixeira stated that the interviews were done primarily by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers, but at SOCU headquarters.“We are convinced that Government is using the arms of the state to threaten and intimidate PPP MPs, but it is not succeeding.” She stated that the suggestion was left open that they would be summoned again. It is expected that more PPP officials will be summoned, she said.The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has been in receipt from Cabinet, of the audit book, prepared by former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, since last month. This had been with the view of ascertaining whether criminal acts were indeed committed in the management of the state owned privatization and investment company.This had been announced by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, on December 23, 2015. While Teixeira looked askance on CID involvement in the questioning, Harmon had said that the matter was now in the hands of CID. The roles played by NICIL Chief Executive Officer, Winston Brassington, in several questionable transactions, were highlighted. Brassington has since been sent on leave.In the forensic audit report on NICIL, Goolsarran had recommended that criminal charges and disciplinaryFormer Minister of Housing, Irfaan Aliactions be taken against all those within NICIL, responsible for the interception of State revenues totaling $26.858 billion in violation of Articles 216 of the Constitution and the related sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA).Dharamlall, as Permanent Secretary of the then Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, served as a director on NICIL’s board from 2011-14, while Ali served as a director of the Privatization board from 2012 to 2014.Goolsarran had also said that disciplinary action is provided for under the following sections of the FMA Act: (a) Section 48 — Misuse of public moneys; (b) Section 49 — Liability for loss of public moneys; and (c) Section 85 — Liability of an official.Goolsarran also called for the institution of criminal and/or disciplinary actions against all those responsible for violating Article 217 of the Constitution, by causing expenditure to be incurred without parliamentary approval.He said that charges are in order for all those responsible for ignoring National Assembly Resolution No. 32 of December 17, 2012, requiring NICIL to pay over to the Consolidated Fund “all revenues and proceeds from the sale of all State properties, except for those necessary administrative costs for maintaining and running its operations annually.”The Chartered Accountant also recommended that his report be forwarded to the State Assets Recovery Unit, with a view to recovering any State assets/properties that might have been improperly and illegally transferred to third parties.The report had highlighted that Brassington bypassed internationally recognized and credible companiesPPP MP, Nigel Dharamlallonly to engage criminal entities for the construction of the Marriott Hotel. It also stated that he failed to justify how millions of dollars were spent in the Linden Mining Enterprise and to properly account for their assets.Goolsarran had also highlighted how Brassington, on behalf of NICIL hid $1B in a secret account which was intended to aid in the construction of the Marriott Hotel, then paved the way for NICIL to fund the preparation of the Pradoville Two scheme.January 24, 2016Marriot’s questionable financing… Shadowy consortium has first claim if hotel goes belly-upLess than a year after the Marriott Hotel opened its doors for business, burning questions remain over theEmbattled: Winston Brassington had helped see the Marriott deal through.manner in which Marriott Hotel, in Kingston, was financed.Last September, the facilities which the new David Granger administration says it is now considering selling, collected more than US$27M in a loan raised from a consortium of businesses.Republic Bank is handling that loan which together with interests and other costs will see the hotel paying back up to US$30M in 26 installments.It is not known which are the businesses or individuals that comprise the consortium as both the previous Government and the present one have not come out and to share this information.What is known is that Marriott Hotel, which is reportedly racking up millions of dollars in losses, monthly, and likely to be subsidized by Government if no buyer is found soon, owes US$30M to Republic Bank.The consortium loan by Republic Bank would be important for Marriott Hotel as the bank through the consortium has first claim on the property. This is despite the more than US$20M plugged in by the Government of Guyana through its company, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).There have been questions also about why NICIL which had over US$5M ($1B) hidden in a bank account, did not plug that money into the hotel construction, thus reducing the need to take the entire US$27M from the bank and the consortium.Escalating CostsThe direct cost of the hotel will be over US$72M after its critical additional feature- an entertainment complex is completed.Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, had estimated that when the indirect costs are taken into account, the total project costs will be around US$100M.It would make Marriott Hotel, per square foot costs, one of the most expensive in the world.At its opening last April, the previous administration had said that the hotel was constructed to the cost of more than US$50M, all using a mixture of tax dollars and the loan from the consortium.Marriott Hotel is facing severe cash problems and will not be even able to service its US$27M bank loan.There have been questions about the consortium and whether the financing structure was deliberately configured to be like the Berbice Bridge Company which handed a few private investors control despite the Government of Guyana guaranteeing the majority of the monies used in that project.There were protests after it was learnt that two Hong Kong investors were set to invest US$4M, and enjoy a 67 percent control of the equity. The duo pulled out leaving a critical money-making part of the facilities in jeopardy.The private investors were also given the option of paying just US$12M for a 100 percent ownership for the hotel, that will eventually costs taxpayers US$100M from the construction costs, waived taxes and other expenses.This would appear much worse when it is taken into consideration that the country would have lost control of the hotel despite footing that estimated US$73M as against the consortium loan of US$27M financed Republic Bank. That entertainment section would have included a casino, restaurant and nightspot.Marriott International, which is managing the hotel, has announced plans to see the entertainment part of the hotel up and running. However, there has been no word on those plans.A recent audit report on Marriott found that the hotel is in no position to service the Republic Bank loan which works out to US$2.5M annually (both capital and interest) and there are no reliable indicators as to whether or not the operations of the entertainment section will be a success story.The hotel itself in the first few months of operations, has been reportedly racking up a $60M monthly fuel bill for its power generators.Government has been holding a number of functions at the hotel but it is not known whether this is enough to cover costs.The hotel was officially opened in April, shortly before the May 11General Elections, with the then Opposition missing from among the invitees.Absent too from the ribbon-cutting ceremony was ex-President Bharrat Jagdeo who had been pushing the project.Rocky RoadThe 197-room Marriott Hotel in Kingston was hailed by the previous Government, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, as one of the special projects to boost tourism and hospitality.But it started off on a rocky road. From the transfer of the lands to the murky details of the financing, there were many questions from the Opposition, leading to clashes even in the National Assembly.The land transfer is engaging the attention of former Parliamentarian, Desmond Trotman, who went to court, arguing that the land on which Marriott stands cannot be mortgaged.From the inception of the project, it has been one filled with controversy, as billions of taxpayers’ dollars were spent by Government on the edifice and without the authority of the National Assembly. It was supposed to be a private/public partnership project. In the end, it ended up mostly a Government one.No big worry, except that Government is now planning to transfer a majority stake to a shadowy Hong Kong investor.During the hotel’s construction, there was no evidence of the hundreds of jobs for locals as promised.The Chinese contractor, Shanghai Construction Group, reportedly imported scores of workers.The still-secret concessions and other benefits of the Marriott Hotel have also been heavily criticized not only by the then Opposition, but by other hotels which said the unfair playing field gave Marriott-brand structure a big advantage and would spell the death knell for them.The project was run by Winston Brassington, on behalf of the previous Government.Brassington was sent on leave by the new Government and has been under investigations for his dealings at NICIL.January 27, 2016NICIL sells prime lands to Nat’l Hardware at $4.9M per acre…demanded $24M per acre from other company By Abena RockcliffeMore information has surfaced about how Former President Bharrat Jagdeo secured wealth and assets for his friends at the expense of the state.Eddie BoyerGuyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) could have been in a better position if only it was allowed to go ahead with certain plans, said an official. However, those plans were halted on the call of Jagdeo while he was President. He had eyed GuySuCo lands for his friends.A former GuySuCo Chairman, who spoke to Kaieteur News on condition of anonymity, said that under his tenure, there was a “fully functioning” Land Committee. That committee, he said, would look at each application for GuySuCo lands on individual merit.He said that back then lands were sold and some were gifted but in a very transparent manner. Those gifted were to religious bodies and sometimes charitable organizations.  That Chairman added that the lands used for the development of Diamond Housing Scheme were from GuySuCo. “We gifted wisely and we were able to contribute to the development of Guyana.”The Chairman said that things started to change after the PPP Administration started to have a direct say as to what should be documented as lands “gifted.” NICIL was subsequently given responsibility to sell GuySuCo lands.Kaieteur News understands that the development of such a culture resulted in much losses for GuySuCo.In just one instance GuySuCo was deprived of making over US$20M just because, according to the former Chairman, “We were told the President had other plans for a plot of land.”GuySuCo was getting ready to seal a lucrative deal through the sale of just over 100 acres of land at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, to Housing Construction Limited but the process was halted by the Jagdeo government. Housing Construction Limited is a Trinidadian Company.A top GuySuCo official at the time, said, “The government was very much aware that we were getting ready to sell and it is because of that they decided to take the lands.”A document titled Privatization in Tables Phase 11 (1993 to 2011) shows that those lands were basically gifted to Eddie Boyer. Boyer is the owner of National Hardware and a friend of Jagdeo’s.The document was prepared by NICIL Director, Winston Brassington.Page 38 of that document, item 61, showed that Boyer under the name of his company, National Hardware was sold 103.88 acres for $510M (US2.55M)—$4.9M per acre.The document showed that other buyers of land in Liliendaal paid way more than Boyer paid.Scady Business Corp. paid $115M for 4.7 acres — $23M per acre. Even though the circumstances surrounding that sale are questionable, Boyer was essentially handed the lands at a gift price.The transactions were also flagged in the NICIL audit report done by Chartered Accountant and Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran.Goolsarran, in his report, said that “By order No. 45 of 2008 dated 29 December 2008, 209.344 acres of land at Block LPT lettered XXX were transferred from GuySuCo to the government of Guyana. Of this amount, 103.88 acres were transferred to NICIL via order No. 4/2010 dated 12 March 2010. Three months later, on 17 June 2010, NICIL sold the said land to National Hardware for $510M via order No. 43 of 2010. This works out to 4.9M per acre.He noted too, “By order No. 47/2008 dated 30 December 2008 4.7 acres of land at RU Plantation Liliendaal was transferred from the Government of Guyana to NICIL. NICIL in turn sold the property on 2 January 2009, a mere two days later,  for $115 M to Scady Business Corporation, an overseas company based  in Tortola, British Virgin Islands . This is further evidence of the sale of land without any form of competitive bidding.”Contacted yesterday, Boyer denied that he was given a favorable deal. Presented with the information about the purchase deal, and asked to comment, Boyer’s first response was, “When? What?Boyer then told Kaieteur News that the price was the “highest price ever paid for land in Guyana.”He added, “This was a piece of property that was advertised in your newspapers. It was advertised in the Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, Chronicle or whoever and I was a bidder for that property.  That is all you have to know. If you want you can go back and check, simple. It was advertised.”Asked how much he paid, Boyer replied, “Why must I tell you how much I paid for the land? It does not have to be public knowledge. It was government land; GuySuCo or whoever sold the land can tell you.”Further, Boyer asked, “Why should I disclose how much? Tell me why should I.”Boyer told Kaieteur News that he was the only bidder for the land. “I got it and that was the end of that.”January 28, 2016National Hardware gets GuySuCo land for $5M per acre sells for $80M…Eddie Boyer bought at $5M an acreBusiness is going well for National Hardware. The company has been raking in huge profits off of lands it secured as a result of the generosity of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and Bharrat Jagdeo.Owner of National Hardware, Eddie BoyerNICIL, back in 2010, sold National Hardware 103.88 acres for $510M (US2.55M)—$4.9M per acre. National Hardware, owned by Eddie Boyer, has in turn been selling the lands at $80M per acre.Kaieteur News spoke to two of the buyers yesterday who indicated that they were made to pay $20M per quarter of an acre.  Those purchasers secured their lands back in 2013. Some potential buyers now say that the price has gone up since then.One of the persons who spoke to this newspaper said, “I have been told that the price increased since then. A friend of mine was looking to buy a piece but I am not sure if he went through with it because he told me the price was higher.”Some buyers took lands in blocks, buying as many as five acres.  Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop owns a few acres as does another popular entrepreneur. Those two, if they indeed bought the land, would be the biggest buyers so far.Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was the original owner of the land. The sugar company could have been in a better position if only it was allowed to go ahead with certain plans, said an official. However, those plans were halted on the call of President Bharrat Jagdeo. He had eyed GuySuCo lands for his friends.A document titled Privatization in Tables Phase 11 (1993 to 2011) shows that those lands were basically gifted to Boyer. Boyer is a friend of Jagdeo.Page 38 of that document, item 61, showed that Boyer under the name of his company, National Hardware, was sold 103.88 acres for $510M (US2.55M)—$4.9M per acre.The document showed that other buyers of land in Liliendaal paid way more than Boyer paid.Scady Business Corp. paid $115M for 4.7 acres — $23M per acre. Even though the circumstances surrounding that sale are questionable, Boyer was essentially handed the lands at a gift price.The transactions were also flagged in the NICIL audit report done by Chartered Accountant and Former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran.Goolsarran, in his report, said that “By order No. 45 of 2008 dated 29 December 2008, 209.344 acres of land at Block LPT lettered XXX were transferred from GuySuCo to the government of Guyana. Of this amount, 103.88 acres were transferred to NICIL via order No. 4/2010 dated 12 March 2010. Three months later, on 17 June 2010, NICIL sold the said land to National Hardware for $510M via order No. 43 of 2010. This works out to 4.9M per acre.He noted too, “By order No. 47/2008 dated 30 December 2008 4.7 acres of land at RU Plantation Liliendaal was transferred from the Government of Guyana to NICIL. NICIL in turn sold the property on 2 January 2009, a mere two days later,  for $115 M to Scady Business Corporation, an overseas company based  in Tortola, British Virgin Islands . This is further evidence of the sale of land without any form of competitive bidding.”January 29, 2016No evidence Ramroop paid dividends for Govt. shares in New GPC…”Ask Goolsarran that”— Ramroop tells reporterLocal financial minds are trying to understand why the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) never pressed to collect dividends on the 10 percent shares Government has in New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC).Ninety per cent of the shares in the company is owned by Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, who happens to be the best friend of former President Bharrat Jagdeo.The remaining 10 per cent is owned by Government.The matter is one which was documented in the NICIL forensic audit report conducted by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.Goolsarran looked into the trade investments and found that Government as of last year owned 10 percent shares in the company.The report said, “In relation to the New GPC Inc., by Cabinet approval of October 1999 and September 2001, the Government had sold 60 percent and 30 percent respectively of its shareholding in the predecessor company, the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation, to Queens Atlantic Investments Inc. for $658 million.“However, there was no evidence that the New GPC paid any dividends to the Government for its 10 percent stake in the company.”Analysts who are looking closely into the matter say that it is one that points to financial lawlessness and a total disregard for best practices in accounting.“The big question is why? Why would anyone with God-given commonsense have a share in a company and simply be so lax with ensuring that they receive dividends? What is before us points to many corrupt things and Ramroop and the company’s former Chief Executive Officer, Winston Brassington, would have to explain this,” expressed the financial analyst.Questioned yesterday to say whether the company ever paid dividends to the Government for its 10 percent share, Ramroop asked, “What is the problem? You can’t ask me that. Is Goolsarran wrote the report. You have to go and ask Goolsarran that. Look, I don’t speak to Kaieteur News so forget it.”Additionally, Kaieteur News also understands that when it comes to this particular matter, Brassington never responded to it when the draft report was sent to him by forensic auditor, Anand Goolsarran.Goolsarran’s 80-page forensic audit report also details numerous cases of financial improprieties by the former directors of NICIL and Brassington.In the report, Goolsarran recommended that moves be made to institute criminal and/or disciplinary actions against all those responsible for the interception of State revenues totaling $26.858 billion in violation of Articles 216 of the Constitution and the related sections of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act (FMA).He believes that there should be a further independent audit to examine in detail transactions over the last six years, given that the scope of his report covered the period 2001 to May 2015.After deliberating on the forensic audit report Cabinet on December 23 finally instructed that the report be forwarded to the Guyana Police Force and the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU).It also gave clear instructions for Brassington, and his Deputy, Marcia Nadir-Sharma, to be sent immediately on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations.Brassington has since resigned.February 23, 2016Audit report…NICIL sells hotel to Roraima Airways for $138M…but demands $179M for nearby land aloneThe forensic audit conducted on Government holding company has raised questions about the sale of Duke Lodge at a cost that is a little less than what the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) charged for a land alone in the same area.Further, it was noted that NICIL had no apparent reason for deciding to sell the Duke Street property.Roraima Airways is owned by Gerry Gouveia, a friend of the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government.In his report, former Auditor General and chartered account, Anand Goolsarran, pointed out thatNICIL sold the property at 93 Duke Street, Kingston to Roraima Airways via Order No. 26/2010 dated June 17,2010.He said that the records of NICIL indicate that the company was the third highest bidder. However, the highest bidder withdrew his bid after the tender was awarded to him.After that happened, NICIL decided to sell the property to Roraima Airways. NICIL said that this decision was made because of the expansion plans Roraima Airways had as well as the fact that the company is the owner of the adjacent property which NICIL had earlier sold to it.Goolsarran said that the two properties were sold for $49M and $138M, compared with valuations of $50 million and $140 million respectively.The Auditor said that it is still not clear how much was expended on renovation works before these two properties was sold.Further, Goolsarran said that the rationale for disposing of the two properties could also not be determined. He suggested that the sale was a bad move for Government considering the fact that “the property was strategically located in close proximity of the United States Embassy and the Canadian High Commission and other State agencies in need of office space have been renting buildings over the years, e.g. the Guyana Revenue Authority in respect of its office in Camp Street.”With regard to the selling price, Goolsarran suggested that Gouveia got the property at a gift price considering the fact that a land alone situated in that vicinity has been sold for much more.Goolsarran noted, “It is relevant to note that in 2011, NICIL had sold the land only at Lot E ½ 126 & 127 Barrack and Parade Streets with an acreage of 0.6753for $179 million. This land is in close proximity of the Duke Street properties.That property was sold to Precious Metals.April 27, 2016NICIL supports Sithe Global’s $$M Amaila expenseBy Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell  Revelations by the various audit reports are endless. The forensic audit report into the operations of theFormer Executive Director of NICIL, Winston BrassingtonNational Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has revealed that its Chief Executive Officer, Winston Brassington, established an account in the name of Sithe Global and charged all expenditure it incurred for the project to that account.Sithe Global is the company that had become both developer and investor in the Amaila Falls Hydro Electricity Project.The company bought its developing licence from Makeshwar ’Fip’ Motilall, who was granted his by the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic Government.Sithe Global officially withdrew as an investor in the project back in 2013 citing a lack of national consensus on the part of the Parliamentary opposition. The company had stated that it would be “forced’ to pull out of the project in the absence of such consensus. It had lobbied extensively, through PR work, to gain such a reality but that was to no avail.By the time Sithe walked, NICIL has already incurred huge expenses on its behalf.In an undocumented agreement, NICIL and Sithe had decided that NICIL would incur initial expenses for the Amaila project and Sithe would have refunded the money.When departing, the company had owed NICIL $303M. However NICIL made provision for the write-off of $151.6M or 50 percent of Sithe Global’s debt.Auditor, Anand GoolsarranIn his report, Goolsarran said that Brassington indicated that amounts expended on the project were treated as receivable from Sithe Global. He further stated that since the project had been aborted, the receivable amount from Sithe Global would have to be written off as  “bad debt.”Goolsarran said that in the NICIL draft financial statements for 2014 the sum of $151.6M indeed reflected the write-off as “bad debt”.Goolsarran said that given the size of Sithe Global’s provision that had been made in NICIL’s accounts, it would have been appropriate for approval from the Minister before making the provision for the write off. He said that in any event, there was no evidence that NICIL Board specially approved the expenditure to be incurred on behalf of Sithe Global.Goolsarran said that this is notwithstanding that the Board would have approved of the accounts.“A provision for bad debts has the same effect on an entity’s results of operations as that of a write-off and is usually a precursor to the latter, hence the need to specifically involve NICIL’s board and the Minister.“The fact that the board approved of the accounts is not enough,” said Goolsarran.He added that despite the statement from the Executive Director that payments made on behalf of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project were recoverable from Sithe Global, amounts totalling $94.7M were charged to the expenditure of NICIL; this is separate from that which was charged to Sithe’s account.A further amount of $5.3M was expended during the period January to May 2015 and charged to the expenditure of NICIL, resulting in an over-statement of NICIL’s expenditure of $100M and a corresponding understatement of the amount owed by Sithe Global.Therefore, Goolsarran said that the total expenditure incurred on behalf of Sithe Global was $403.3M.Goolsarran said that it is not clear how much of this expenditure relates to the construction of the Amaila Falls access road; how much was paid to Synergy Holdings before the contract was terminated; what procedures were followed leading to the award of the contract; how much remained recoverable from the contractor; and what procedures were followed in the selection of China Railway Group to complete the road. He said that it is also unclear how much was paid to China Railway and what is the state of completion of the road.The government has spent more than US$42M to build a road to the hydropower site and it was said that Sithe Global invested some US$16M in the project.It is unclear if that sum includes that which was incurred by NICIL.September 01, 2016NICIL’s operations still shrouded in secrecy– Board members seem uninterested in bringing wrongdoers to justice –GoolsarranEven with a new administration in place, the installment of different board members, and a detailed forensic audit report exposing the company’s weaknesses, local critics still believe that the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has not changed its face. In fact, it is over a year and the entity essentially remains shrouded in the secrecy that had been detested during the previous regime.The NICIL Board Members include Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Board Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle and Head of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham.Kaieteur News tried relentlessly to contact the Chairman as well as Minister Harmon on a number of issues relating to the entity. But all efforts over the past weeks proved futile. Meanwhile, Wickham asked that all questions be directed to the Chairman.When he was first appointed to the post in August last year, the Chairman of the Board had made a commitment that NICIL would be run in an entirely different manner.Last year in an interview with this newspaper, Odle bemoaned the fact that under the previous administration, the entity was run with little to no transparency and accountability for investment decisions. He also spoke against the way in which taxpayers were kept in the dark on the happenings of the state-owned company.One year later, under Odle’s directive, NICIL is being accused of keeping the nation “in the dark” as it relates to how reforms have been made by the company under the new administration and the status regarding the millions of dollars in debt it is owed by various agencies.Furthermore, the Chairman had given his support for the release of the Marriott Hotel contract. But even though he had said that NICIL is in possession of the document, it is still to be released under his watch.Additionally, meaningful reforms recommended for NICIL in a forensic audit report are yet to be implemented. Kaieteur News was able to confirm this with several officials working with the entity.Asked to explain why this is the case, NICIL Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle, had said that the Board is awaiting the completion of two other audits as instructed by Cabinet.The status of these audits is yet to be made public.In the forensic audit report which was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, it was recommended that the entity be closed down and a small department opened under the Ministry of Finance, if Government deems it necessary.It was explained that the reason for such a recommendation was premised on the fact that NICIL was initially established for the purpose of privatization of state assets. That was done in two phases in the 1990s.Since that phase ended years ago, the report recommends that there is no need for NICIL to remain a company. It says that it should be liquidated and Government should make moves to establish a department to manage the assets being held by the company.Finance Minister Winston Jordan said, however, that he is not inclined to go this route, and has since made it clear that the entity is necessary.Meanwhile, Goolsarran told this newspaper yesterday that he is deeply disappointed that recommendations to shut down NICIL have not been implemented. He reminded that it was this very administration which had at one time, called for the closure of NICIL when it sat on the opposition benches.The former Auditor General stated that this new Government had given the commitment that it would not use NICIL in an abusive manner.“However, what Government must see is the bigger picture. What will happen when there is another government in place? Too late shall be the cry then. It is a grave disappointment and NICIL should without question be brought to a halt. It practically allows too many avenues for eerie forms of corruption which the nation has witnessed under the previous administration,” expressed Goolsarran.The anti-corruption activist also said that the forensic audit which he prepared provides irrefutable grounds which show how financial lawlessness took place at unimaginable scales at the entity.In this regard, Goolsarran expressed that he is in agreement with other financial minds who believe that the NICIL Board seems uninterested in going after those persons who committed grave acts within the state-owned entity.Goolsarran recalled that it was since last year December that a Cabinet decision was made for NICIL’s former CEO, Winston Brassington and his Deputy, Marcia Nadir-Sharma to be sent on leave pending the outcome of investigations.The former Auditor General said it is troubling that eight months later, not a word has been said by NICIL to the nation regarding the status of these investigations. He stressed that NICIL needs to remove itself from the veil of secrecy.Goolsarran nevertheless maintained that “NICIL has been at the centre of some of the worst corrupt acts of our time and it must be closed down.”September 04, 2016NICIL Director shows two faces on release of Marriott contract…now says it cannot be released since terms of Agreement are “strictly confidential”While it conforms to the principles of transparency and accountability, NICIL’s Chairman, Dr. MauriceNICIL Chairman,Maurice OdleOdle expressed that when it comes to the release of certain agreements and contracts signed under the previous administration, there are some “constraints”.With this in mind, Odle said that in the case of the Marriott Management Agreement, it cannot be released, as the terms of the document are “strictly confidential”.In a statement to the media on Friday he said that the agreement cannot be disclosed without the written consent of Marriott.However, Odle’s comments are in stark contrast to those he gave Kaieteur News on June 17, last, on the said contract.Using the same line of “transparency and accountability” Odle had stressed that the contract for the controversial Marriott Hotel should be made public.In fact, Odle remarked that too often, the citizenry hears of agreements being made between the Government and private parties and when there is a call for scrutiny to take place, “the infamous confidentiality clause is invoked.”The NICIL Chairman added, “And where there is too much confidentiality clause it leads to corruption as in the case of the Marriott Hotel. For the Marriott, too many confidentiality clauses led it into the avenue of corruption. All those different confidentiality clauses they were invoking led to a set of actions which cannot be substantiated.”Odle had emphasized that the more the nature of such agreements are known to the electors and the taxpayers, on whose behalf the Government is acting, the better it will be for the accomplishment of good governance in Guyana.Asked to say if he will provide a copy of the Marriott Hotel contract to the media, he had remarked, “I am Chairman of NICIL and not Atlantic Holdings Inc. (AHI) which is the Board overseeing the operations of Marriott. Beverly Harper is in charge of the AHI and they should have a copy of the Marriott Hotel contract at hand and it should be released to the public. There may be a copy of the contract buried somewhere at NICIL, but AHI has easier access to it.”The NICIL Chairman said that he is all for transparency and accountability and insists that such agreements should not be treated as “state secrets.” He had said that the Marriot Hotel contract should be in the public domain for all upright and concerned citizens to peruse.September 05, 2016Keeping NICIL alive can result in future abuses – Former AGRegardless of whatever explanations the Government may present for keeping NICIL, former Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran insists that there is great danger in keeping the controversial entity alive in its present form.Former Auditor General,Anand GoolsarranNICIL Chairman, Dr. Maurice OdleGoolsarran said that prior to 2002, a Privatization Unit was functioning under the Ministry of Finance. He said that by a Management Cooperation Agreement entered into, the Privatization Unit, headed by the infamous Winston Brassington went over to NICIL and took over the operations of the entity.The Chartered Accountant said that since then, state revenues, in the form of dividends and privatization proceeds have been intercepted and retained by NICIL as its revenue. These revenues he said were used for purposes as dictated by NICIL’s board.Goolsarran said that while corrective actions might have been taken in relation to some of the irregularities uncovered by the forensic audit he conducted on NICIL, there is the inescapable reality that “there is the clear danger that keeping NICIL ‘live’ can result in future abuses.”The Chartered Accountant said that there is no reason why the current activities of NICIL cannot be undertaken as a department under the Ministry of Finance, as was done in the past.He stressed that NICIL was established in 1990 to monitor the Government’s privatization programme and to collect all dividends from public corporations and other entities in which controlling interest is vested in the State, as well as privatization proceeds and pay them over to the Consolidated Fund. The former Auditor General said that the privatization programme came to an end some five years ago.As regards Goolsarran’s recommendation to shut NICIL down, Chairman of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, Dr. Maurice Odle said that this is a policy decision that Government has to make.In a statement to the media, Odle said that a decision was taken by the Board not to recommend the disbanding of NICIL. He said that the Board recommended that NICIL retain both its original custodial and oversight role as a holding company and, also, its development role.Dr. Odle believes that the development role, in conjunction with line Ministries, involves capitalization, financial and legal structuring, and project management, with respect to certain investments approved by Cabinet.In addition, to this, the NICIL Chairman said that the entity to date continues to be responsible for various types of assets, particularly land and property, until such time that the Government may deem it necessary to privatize same.He stressed that collaboration with Ministries and Agencies is being used to enhance effectiveness. In this regard, the NICIL Chairman cited that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the Ministry of Business concerning the administration of Industrial Estates.September 10, 2016Govt. must seriously commit to prosecuting those who abused laws, public resources – GoolsarranFormer Auditor General Anand Goolsarran is greatly concerned that after the obvious abuse of the country’s financial laws and the brazen misuse of taxpayers’ dollars, government is not taking serious action against NICIL’s former CEO, Winston Brassington and Former Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh.He said that it is troubling for Guyana’s sake that these persons who were in control of the country’s purse strings have not been held accountable, and in fact are not even present to answer important questions about any of their decisions.Goolsarran said that Government must step up to the plate and demonstrate to a now vigilant nation that it is serious about impeaching those who violate the nation’s laws and misuse public resources.Many have questioned whether certain ministers within the Government are genuinely interested in bringing particularly Brassington before the courts, for his actions against the nation.Anti-corruption advocates have also questioned whether the current Minister of Finance Winston Jordan has truly displayed an interest in seeing Brassington face the full extent of the law.While Goolsarran shares these sentiments, he said that he would not put all the blame on the Finance Minister, even though he would have an influential voice at the level of Cabinet.BRASSINGTON DESECRATED VARIOUS LAWSThe Chartered Accountant also reminded of his forensic audit report on NICIL which details how Brassington desecrated various laws and misused NICIL for the private gains of the former Cabinet.In that report, Goolsarran made the recommendation for a transactional audit to be done on the entity. He was however, taken aback by the decision of Cabinet to hand Phase II of the NICIL forensic audit to the Audit Office.In this regard, the forensic auditor said, “It was the same office that gave a ‘clean bill of health’ on the accounts of NICIL during the period 2002-2012 when all the discoveries were made. And, please don’t forget the mother of all conflicts of interest that existed then between the Audit Office and the Ministry of Finance where the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh was the Chairman of NICIL while his spouse at the Audit Office had overall responsibility for the audit of the accounts of NICIL.”Goolsarran continued, “And also, please do not forget the statement by the former Minister that the audits of NICIL’s ‘subsidiaries’ must be contracted out to Chartered Accountants in public practice, but the audit of NICIL must remain with the Audit Office.”Goolsarran said that the aforementioned is just the tip of the iceberg of corruption that continues to remain anchored in the entity’s soul.The former AG said that Cabinet’s decision, disappointing and troubling as it may be, leaves one to wonder just how interested this Government is in returning Guyana to a state of transparency.GROSS CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE VIOLATIONSTurning his attention to Dr. Singh’s transgressions, Goolsarran recounted that the former Minister of Finance committed gross constitutional and legislative violations when he authorized $4.554 billion to be issued from the Consolidated Fund without parliamentary approval.The Chartered Accountant emphasised that Dr. Singh violated the nation’s budget laws and related constitutional requirements.“He has also violated the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act which prohibits the gifting of State lands. In this regard, one would recall that the former Minister transferred State lands to NICIL by way of a deed of gift. NICIL in turn sold the lands to third parties. Ashni Singh also violated the Public Corporations Act by approving the transfer of State lands from NICIL to third parties,” Goolsarran pointed out.With this in mind, the Chartered Accountant said that Government must uphold its election promise to ensure that those who abused their offices would face the courts.Goolsarran said that it is over 15 months since the administration is in office, and notwithstanding the efforts of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), “it is time for the government to not talk, but demonstrate a serious commitment to taking the appropriate disciplinary actions against all those who have been involved in the violation of our constitutional, legislative and regulatory frameworks relating to the use of public resources”.September 14, 2016Mystery surrounds GTT Shares … SARU Head accuses NICIL boss of misleading nation-Says Maurice Odle should shed some light on documents Harmon brought back from his China tripHead of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU) Dr. Clive Thomas is disappointed that the head of theNICIL Chairman,Dr. Maurice OdleNational Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Dr. Maurice Odle, is misleading the nation on the government-owned shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.Dr. Thomas said that it was NICIL’s responsibility to tell the truth about what really happened with the outstanding moneys to be received on the shares. He said that he was shocked, however, when he noticed that Odle chose to pass blame to SARU.Odle had said that SARU was conducting its own investigations and is yet to formally advise the NICIL Board on its progress.Contrary to Odle’s claims, Dr. Thomas said at no point was he ever asked to look into the GTT fiasco.The SARU Head said, “I never had any conversation with Odle or any NICIL member for him or anyone to get the impression that SARU is doing any investigation into the GTT shares.“In fact, SARU was never asked to look into this matter, a matter that involves millions of dollars that should have been paid for shares owned by the state. After a trip to China by two of its own members, the nation is still to find clarity on this issue.”“Also, I want to make it clear that SARU was never expected to update NICIL on anything regarding the GTT shares. Imagine I have been out of the country for just a few weeks and I return to these spurious claims.”For weeks, the NICIL Head had been silent and even evading pressing questions from this media on the issue.Odle finally broke his silence on the matter after noting an article in Kaieteur News which said that even under new direction, the controversial company was still shrouded in secrecy.SARU Head,Dr. Clive ThomasAmong other issues, Odle sought to explain the status of the outstanding monies to be received on the GTT shares.He recalled that NICIL sold the Government’s investment in GT&T in 2012 for US$30M of which the sum of US$25M was received. Odle noted that the balance of US$5M was to be paid within a period of two years.To date, Government does not know what really happened with that money. It has only received different versions of what had occurred before it assumed office.At one point, the nation was told that Guyana’s former Ambassador to China, David Dabydeen, facilitated a debt write- off to Hong Kong Golden Telecom Company (HKGT), the company that bought Government’s shares in GTT.HKGT is a subsidiary of Datang Telecom International Technology (Hong Kong) Company Limited.Kaieteur News understands that the purchase agreement between the Chinese company and Guyana was framed in such a manner that in the event of any legal issue, Guyana or HKGT would have to petition the United Kingdom courts.NICIL had said that in an attempt to avoid costly and lengthy adjudication of the matter in the English Courts, it called on the Government to encourage HKGT through diplomatic channels, to honour its contractual obligations.NICIL said that what was alleged by HKGT was that following a series of communications with the former Guyana Ambassador to China, HKGT was assured that it was not required to pay the balance of US$5M. This was because HKGTMinister of State and NICIL Director, Joseph Harmonhad not been granted the same minority protection rights enjoyed by NICIL—that is two representatives, instead of one, on the GT&T Board of Directors. HKGT alleged that it was initially promised two seats by the then government of Guyana.NICIL said that HKGT also alleged that the decision to waive the US$5M was contained in a side agreement.NICIL noted that it has not been able to verify the veracity of HKGT’s claim of waiver and has requested the assistance of the Government of Guyana to verify the validity of HKGT’s assertion and the documents they produced to support same.The second version of what happened to the GTT shares further complicates the controversy.In this age of technology, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon in the company of a NICIL legal officer went all the way to China to ascertain if Guyana was actually paid the money by the entity which initially bought the GTT shares.Harmon subsequently returned to his homeland with some documents on the GTT shares saga that the nation is yet to see.Nevertheless, Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, had told the media that Harmon had retrieved documents from his trip to China which indicate that the money had been paid before last year’s general elections.Dr. Thomas confirmed that even though he and Harmon share the same compound at the Ministry of the Presidency, he has not seen these documents on the GTT shares. He reminded, too, that Harmon is NICIL board member. “NICIL has an obligation to do its work and avoid placing the blame, and falsely at that, on others for its lax behaviour.”The SARU Head added, “We (SARU) are an efficient unit and we take cases involving state assets very seriously, hence, my extreme disappointment when those reckless comments were made by the NICIL Chairman. He should shed some light on the documents Harmon received from his China trip.”October 3, 2016Govt. moving forward with Entertainment Complex, Casino for Marriott Hotel– had condemned five-star entity as monument of corruption during elections campaignGovernment appears to be moving full steam ahead with a major money-making venture at the controversial Marriott Hotel, an entity it had condemned as a monument of corruption during its election campaign.The project involves installing an Entertainment Complex and Casino at the five-star hotel, located at Kingston.There was no mention of this decision to members of the public via any form or even at Government’s usual post-cabinet meetings with the press.But an advertisement in last Saturday’s edition of the Chronicle stated that the Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) is a fully owned government company which owns the Marriott Hotel. The advertisement also stated that AHI is embarking on Phase Two of the Guyana Marriott Project, which consists of the design and outfitting of an Entertainment Complex and Casino.Beverly Harper, Ansa Mcal’s Chief Executive Officer, was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors at Atlantic Hotel Inc. last year. Other AHI board members include Larry London, Derrick Cummings and Patricia Bacchus. AHI was previously headed by Winston Brassington and Marcia Nadir-Sharma.Chartered Accountant, Chris RamAHI Head, Beverly HarperAHI Head, Beverly HarperAdditionally, AHI said that it was seeking an accountant for this aspect of the project to ensure the smooth, efficient and cost effective execution of phase two of the hotel. Handling the receipt of the applications is Ram and McRae Chartered Accountants. Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram who is part of the company, had been extremely critical of the Marriott venture over the years. He had even referred to it as a death knell for other local hotels in Guyana.It was only last year that Finance Minister Winston Jordan said, that if the price is right, Government would be willing to rid itself of the controversial Marriott Hotel.At the time, Jordan was asked to provide an update on what Government has decided to do with the Hotel it inherited from the previous regime.He recalled that the government has made it clear on several occasions that it has no intention of being competitively involved in the hotel industry.The Marriott HotelWhen asked about the possibility of Government selling the hotel, Jordan responded, “Let me put it this way, if Government gets a credible offer or buyer, it will divest itself of the hotel.”The Finance Minister said that Cabinet has established a subcommittee that is looking at the issue and the best way of relieving the government of any responsibility in owning the hotel.He noted that the Committee includes members such as Business Minster, Dominic Gaskin and Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul Sharma.The Finance Minister reiterated, “Government is determined not to own the hotel.”October 5, 2016Completion of Marriott Hotel Phase Two…Govt. making unwise, reckless, and politically wounding decision – Goolsarran– administration must provide valid reasons to the nation for its decision Former Auditor General  Anand Goolsarran is convinced that it would be a reckless, unwise and politically wounding decision for government to move forward with the completion of the US$12M Entertainment Complex and Casino of the Marriott Hotel.Goolsarran stressed that it was this very hotel that Government ministers criticized as being “a monument of corruption” during its election campaign.In an advertisement in last Saturday’s edition of the Guyana Chronicle, it was stated that the Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) is a fully-owned government company which owns the Marriott Hotel.The advertisement also stated that AHI is embarking on Phase Two of the Guyana Marriott Project, which consists of the design and outfitting of an Entertainment Complex and Casino.Beverly Harper, Ansa McAl’s Chief Executive Officer, was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors at Atlantic Hotel Inc. last year. Other AHI board members include Larry London, Derrick Cummings and Patricia Bacchus. AHI was previously headed by Winston Brassington and Marcia Nadir-Sharma.Marriott HotelFormer Auditor General, Anand GoolsarranGoolsarran emphasized that he even stated in his forensic audit report on the hotel that there is no point in moving forward with the second phase. He said that there is no market study or intelligence which speaks to the success of casinos in Guyana.The forensic auditor also stated that one cannot lend much credibility or reliance on the figures which may be put forward by some to support the profitability of the Princess Casino.The Chartered Accountant said, “Government should not proceed based on the overwhelming uncertainties…My report on it is clear that they should halt it. I don’t know to what extent they think completing the second part, they will get a better price for the hotel and that is if they still have the intention to sell.“But that aside, what is the point of doing a forensic audit on the hotel if they are not going to make use of crucial recommendations made by the auditors. This is troubling and disappointing.”The Chartered Accountant also reminded of some pertinent points he made in his forensic audit report on the hotel.He said that he made it pellucid in his report that the Entertainment Complex is too risky a venture for the government to undertake. Goolsarran said that there are also indications of possible amendments to the Marriott International’s Management Contract including whether or not the Agreement can be terminated within a five-year period and whether the projections made by the consultancy firm, HVS, are likely to materialize.Instead, Goolsarran said that the Government of Guyana should proceed with haste to advertise for the sale of the hotel, bearing in mind that the Management Agreement with Marriott International is for 30 years and renewable for another 10 years.He said that while Government could retain majority interest in the hotel and offer 49% of shares to the public and institutional investors, such as banks and insurance companies, the risk still remains in terms of the financial viability of the operations of the hotel.The Chartered Accountant said that it is important for citizens to bear in mind that the Republic Bank loan of US$15.25 million is ranked priority to that of NICIL and is secured by “debenture and mortgages”. Goolsarran said that these conditions have serious implications should AHI default in payment.Furthermore, the Chartered Accountant recalled that the Marriott Hotel was opened for commercial operations on April 16, 2015. He said that AHI provided a copy of Marriott’s consolidated profit and loss statement as of June 30, 2015, that is some 10 months after its opening.Goolsarran said that a review of the statement indicated that the hotel has made a loss of $59.311 million as of that date. He said that this was mainly due to the less-than-anticipated income from rooms coupled with the high cost of utilities which was73.9% higher than budgeted. The occupancy rate during that period was 29.8%.AHI however commented that on the basis of management information, the hotel is performing in accordance with budget.Goolsarran said, “Since my report was issued, the full US$27 million was drawn down from the Republic Bank, presumably to complete the Entertainment Complex estimated to cost US$12 million. I maintain my position that AHI should not have proceeded with the construction, given the uncertainties as to whether the operations of the Casino will be a success story. In the circumstances, the balance of the loan resources should have been cancelled.”The former Auditor General said that it is also extremely uncertain whether the additional investment of US$12 million will be recovered when the hotel is sold.He concluded, “I agree that a recommendation is not binding. However, there must be valid reasons for setting aside the recommendation. These should be presented to the nation but so far, I have seen none.”November 21, 2016One year after Board installed…New Govt., same secrecy at NICILBy Abena Rockcliffe-CampbellIs the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) operating with more transparency?No, say some anti-corruption advocates.Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael TrotmanMinister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman is saying otherwise.Hosting the most recent post-Cabinet press briefing in the place of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Trotman said that NICIL has already undergone significant changes and is continuing along that route.The Minister reminded media operatives of the fact that NICIL was established prior to 1992 when the People’s Progressive Party government took control of the country. He said however that the purpose of the company has been compromised. “The purpose and intention has changed drastically over the years.”He said that the APNU+AFC government wants the company to return to its former glory.  In this regard, “recommendations are being adhered to in terms of what it is intended to be doing. It was not meant to be a profiteering enterprise.”Even though the changes are not evident, Trotman said, “Yes, we have had changes effected. I know that the leadership of the company is going well; we do not anticipate it should be disbanded.But the reality seems to be different to those keeping a close eye on the company. It is over a year and the entity essentially remains shrouded in the secrecy that had been detested during the previous regime.NICIL’s new Board Members include Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Board Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle and Head of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham. The Board is yet to hold even a single press conference since it has been installed.Communication with Chairman, Odle has been via telephone. However, over the past three months, Odle has not answered calls from Kaieteur News.When he was first appointed to the post in August last year, the Chairman of the Board had made a commitment that NICIL would be run in an entirely different manner.Last year in an interview with this newspaper, Odle bemoaned the fact that under the previous administration, the entity was run with little to no transparency and accountability for investment decisions.He also spoke against the way in which taxpayers were kept in the dark on the happenings of the state-owned company.One year later, under Odle’s directive, NICIL is being accused of keeping the nation “in the dark” about how reforms have been made by the company under the new administration and the status regarding the millions of dollars in debt it is owed by various agencies.Furthermore, the Chairman had given his support for the release of the Marriott Hotel contract. But even though he had said that NICIL is in possession of the document, it is still to be released under his watch.Additionally, meaningful reforms recommended for NICIL in a forensic audit report are yet to be implemented. Kaieteur News was able to confirm this with several officials working with the entity.In the forensic audit report which was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, it was recommended that the entity be closed down and a small department opened under the Ministry of Finance, if Government deems it necessary.It was explained that the reason for such a recommendation was premised on the fact that NICIL was initially established for the purpose of privatization of state assets. That was done in two phases in the 1990s.Since that phase ended years ago, the report recommends that there is no need for NICIL to remain a company. It says that it should be liquidated and Government should make moves to establish a department to manage the assets being held by the company.Finance Minister Winston Jordan said, however, that he is not inclined to go this route, and has since made it clear that the entity is necessary.December 28, 2016NICIL not as rich as it used to be – Finance Minister– says new board “conservative”, has nothing to hide-will urge entity to be more open to media By Kiana Wilburg Even though it has been said by Government officials that there have been significant changes atFinance Minister, Winston JordanNICIL, criticisms still remain overwhelming that the entity continues to operate in a clandestine manner. However,Jhoulys Chacin Jersey, Finance Minister Winston Jordan recently discredited such views, stating that it is no longer business as usual at NICIL. He made it clear, too, that the entity has nothing to hide.Minister Jordan was also reminded of the fact that since the change in board members last year, there has not been a single press conference held by the authority.The NICIL Board Members include Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, Board Chairman, Dr. Maurice Odle and Head of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), Berkley Wickham.Jordan told Kaieteur News that he will urge the entity to be more open to the media.“I am going to urge them to be more open, because there is nothing to hide at NICIL, beyond the fact that they are not as rich as they used to be. But there is nothing to hide. Their transactions are fairly transparent and open. I think they have been able to get a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).”The Minister continued, “The CEO will be recruited in the New Year and let’s hope in the context of new, they will experience a new level of dynamism at the entity.”Asked to say if the company has made any transfers to the treasury as of late, Jordan retorted, “There is nothing to transfer; in fact they need lots of money, because remember, they are agents for certain agencies plus they are a holding company, AHI is a holding company for Marriott and NICIL is the holding company for AHI. So trust me, they don’t have anything to transfer.”The Finance Minister said that in any case “it is business unusual” at NICIL. At the level of dividends, the Finance Minister said that the entity is now only required to hold it in accordance with what was the original intent of the company, and then transfer in full to the Consolidated Fund.“So there is nothing that NICIL has to hide. What they have is a very conservative board and management who like to stay away from the public and do things quietly. But I will talk to them about holding a press conference early in the new year,” Jordan said.Since last year, Kaieteur News has tried relentlessly to contact the Chairman, as well as Minister Harmon, on a number of issues relating to the entity. But all efforts proved futile. It continues to be a case the “royal run around.”Last year in an interview with this newspaper, Chairman Odle bemoaned the fact that under the previous administration, the entity was run with little to no transparency and accountability for investment decisions. He also spoke against the way in which taxpayers were kept in the dark on the happenings of the state-owned company.One year later, under Odle’s directive, NICIL is being accused of keeping the nation “in the dark” as it relates to how reforms have been made by the company under the new administration and the status regarding the millions of dollars in debt it is owed by various agencies.Additionally, meaningful reforms recommended for NICIL in a forensic audit report are yet to be implemented. In this regard, Odle had said that the Board is awaiting the completion of two other audits as instructed by Cabinet. The status of these audits is yet to be made public.In the forensic audit report which was prepared by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, it was recommended that the entity be closed down and a small department opened under the Ministry of Finance, if Government deems it necessary.It was explained that the reason for such a recommendation was premised on the fact that NICIL was initially established for the purpose of privatization of state assets. That was done in two phases in the 1990s.Since that phase ended years ago, the report recommends that there is no need for NICIL to remain a company. It says that it should be liquidated and Government should make moves to establish a department to manage the assets being held by the company.Finance Minister Winston Jordan said, however, that he is not inclined to go this route, and has since made it clear that the entity is necessary.Meanwhile, Goolsarran had told this newspaper that he is deeply disappointed that recommendations to shut down NICIL have not been implemented. He reminded that it was this very administration which had at one time, called for the closure of NICIL when it sat on the opposition benches.The former Auditor General stated that this new Government had given the commitment that it would not use NICIL in an abusive manner.“However, what Government must see is the bigger picture. What will happen when there is another government in place? Too late shall be the cry then. It is a grave disappointment and NICIL should without question be brought to a halt. It practically allows too many avenues for eerie forms of corruption which the nation has witnessed under the previous administration,” Goolsarran had saidThe anti-corruption activist had also said that the forensic audit which he prepared provides irrefutable grounds which show how financial lawlessness took place at unimaginable scales at the entity.In this regard, Goolsarran expressed that he is in agreement with other financial minds who believe that the NICIL Board seems uninterested in going after those persons who committed grave acts within the state-owned entity.Goolsarran recalled that it was since last year December that a Cabinet decision was made for NICIL’s former CEO, Winston Brassington and his Deputy, Marcia Nadir-Sharma to be sent on leave pending the outcome of investigations.The former Auditor General said it is troubling that months later, not a word has been uttered by NICIL to the nation regarding the status of these investigations. He stressed that NICIL needs to remove itself from the veil of secrecy.Goolsarran nevertheless maintained that “NICIL has been at the centre of some of the worst corrupt acts of our time and it must be closed down.”December 29, 2016Finance Minister must tell nation what happened to billions at NICIL – Nandlall– calls for explanation on outstanding GTT shares, other issues“As the guardian of the national purse, Finance Minister,’ Winston Jordan cannot expect to make aOpposition Member, Anil Nandlalldim-witted statement that “’NICIL is no longer rich. He must explain to the nation why this is the case.”This was the assertion of Opposition member and former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.The politician’s viewpoint came on the heels of comments which were made by Jordan and carried by this newspaper on Wednesday.The Finance Minister had expressed that it is no longer business as usual at NICIL. He stated that the entity is no longer as rich as it used to be and has nothing at the moment to transfer to the Treasury.Nandlall, however, refuses to buy into the Minister’s explanations. He wants specifics. He wants evidence. In fact, the former Attorney General recalled that for years, APNU+AFC while in Opposition, had accused the PPP administration of hoarding billions of dollars at NICIL which were intended for the national coffers.With this in mind, Nandlall said that the Finance Minister “must come clean on what happened to the billions which were held at NICIL”.“The billions simply cannot vanish. Either it was stolen under this Administration, or APNU+AFC lied to the nation when it made those bold allegations that NICIL was hoarding billions of dollars. The Minister cannot eat his cake and have it. He is obliged to choose one of the two options to which I have alluded if he wishes to be taken seriously!” Nandlall stated emphaticallyAdditionally, since the Minister spoke to NICIL’s financial status, Nandlall said that Jordan must update the nation on the position of the US$5M which remains outstanding for the sale of Government’s shares in GT&T.“The time for the payment of that sum of money under the agreement by which those shares were sold has long expired. The nation needs to be told what steps, if any, are being taken by this administration to recover those monies.”Finance Minister, Winston JordanNandlall continued, “It may also be opportune for the Minister of Finance to say how much of the billions of dollars which were in commercial bank accounts and in accounts held by extra-budgetary funds, have been transferred to the Consolidated Fund.”In this regard, Nandlall said that during the 2015 budget debates, the Minister had promised to transfer all these monies into the Consolidated Fund. In fact, the attorney-at-law opined that this was also a major platform promise made in the elections campaign by the APNU+AFC coalition.Nandlall commented that 19 months after, the Minister ought to account to the nation how much money has been transferred from these accounts to the Consolidated Fund, and if all the monies have not been transferred as he promised, he must give the reasons why he is breaching his own promise.When the coalition party assumed office, it had launched a series of forensic audits, one of which was conducted into the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited. The audit, which was conducted by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, found that billions of dollars were indeed being transferred from various organizations to the entity.In one instance, Goolsarran found that $1B was placed in a special account, while amounts totaling $7.320 billion were received from different government agencies for various works.Government revealed to the nation last year that $1B was transferred from NICIL to the national coffers.With regard to other transfers this year, the Finance Minister recently stated that there is nothing more at the entity to be transferred.“There is nothing to transfer. They (NICIL) need lots of money, because remember, they are agents for certain agencies plus they are a holding company, AHI is a holding company for Marriott and NICIL is the holding company for AHI. So trust me, they don’t have anything to transfer.”The Finance Minister said that in any case “it is business unusual” at NICIL. At the level of dividends, Jordan said that the entity is now only required to hold it in accordance with what was the original intent of the company, and then transfer in full to the Consolidated Fund.“So there is nothing that NICIL has to hide. What they have is a very conservative board and management who like to stay away from the public and do things quietly. But I will talk to them about holding a press conference early in the new year,” Jordan said.Since last year, Kaieteur News has tried relentlessly to contact NICIL’s Chairman Maurice Odle, as well as Minister Joseph Harmon, on a number of issues relating to the entity. But all efforts proved futile. It continues to be a case of the “royal run around.”December 31, 2016GTT shares issue…NICIL to pursue arbitration to recover outstanding US$5MBy Kiana WilburgThe National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) will be pursuing the route of arbitration in the United Kingdom in hopes of recovering the outstanding US$5M from the sale of Government’s shares in GTT.Officer in Charge at NICIL, Horace JamesThis is according to Officer in Charge at NICIL, Horace James. He made this declaration yesterday during the entity’s end of year press conference held at NICIL’s boardroom.The NICIL officer was adamant that the US$5M was not written off as was previously claimed. He insists it is still owed to NICIL.James said, “We are in the process of executing all the relief measures that are in the sales agreement in order for us to get it back. We have engaged our lawyers in the USA.”He continued, “And we are using the lawyer who was involved in the sales agreement process and who helped us to draft the agreement. They recommended a company in the United Kingdom to help us in the arbitration whenever that time comes and when we are going there.”The NICIL officer added, “It is important that we use a UK company because the arbitration will be held in London.”James said that NICIL is not only going after the recovery of the US$5M, but also interest costs, legal fees, the signatory for the agreement and even the person who guaranteed it.He continued, “So that process has started and our lawyers have presented all the issues concerning the shares and said that it is a very good chance that we could get back the money.”MYSTERY DOCUMENTSJames was reminded that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who is also a NICIL director had brought back some documents from his infamous China trip which he received from Hong Kong Golden Telecom Company (HKGT), the company that bought Government’s shares in GTT.In this regard, he confirmed that Harmon indeed submitted such documents.He said, “The documents basically said that the purchasers of the shares indicated that they had a discussion with David Dabydeen and were under the impression that they were relieved from paying it. But that is not so.“NICIL sold you something and so you owe us. You made an initial payment and so the second payment has to be made. That is our major contention.”James declined to share the document submitted by Harmon , stating that it might be used as part of the arbitration proceedings. He does not want to make any move that would jeopardize the process.INITIAL ARRANGEMENTIt was in 2012 that NICIL sold the Government’s investment in GTT for US$30M of which the sum of US$25M was received. The balance, US$5M, was to be paid within a period of two years.But there have been conflicting stories since that initial arrangement.At one point, the nation was told that Guyana’s former Ambassador to China, David Dabydeen, facilitated a debt write-off to HKGT.HKGT is a subsidiary of Datang Telecom International Technology (Hong Kong) Company Limited.Kaieteur News understands that the purchase agreement between the Chinese company and Guyana was framed in such a manner that in the event of any legal issue, Guyana or HKGT would have to petition the United Kingdom courts.NICIL had said that in an attempt to avoid costly and lengthy adjudication of the matter in the English Courts, it called on the government to encourage HKGT through diplomatic channels, to honour its contractual obligations.NICIL said that HKGT alleged that following a series of communications with the former Guyana Ambassador to China, HKGT was assured that it was not required to pay the balance of US$5M.This was because HKGT had not been granted the same minority protection rights enjoyed by NICIL—that is two representatives, instead of one, on the GTT Board of Directors. HKGT alleged that it was initially promised two seats by the then Government of Guyana.NICIL said that HKGT also alleged that the decision to waive the US$5M was contained in a side agreement.NICIL noted that it has not been able to verify HKGT’s claim of waiver and has requested the assistance of the Government of Guyana to verify the validity of HKGT’s assertion and the documents they produced to support same.. The Berbice Bridge Scheme. The Tale of Bharrat Jagdeo and his best friend Bobby Ramroop.The Sanata Complex giveaway. The Media & Telecommunication Heist of Guyana
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