Public Monies on Marriot Hotel Be Halted Until Approval by the National Assembly2255 17 Dec, 2012
Mr. Ramjattan: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. As the heckler just mentioned, I am not excessive. I will respect your legal opinion on the deletion of that resolve clause and I will proceed. [Mr. Benn: Have you not consulted before?] There was no consultation before – absolutely none.
[Mr. Ali: The Speaker is the Chairman of the party still. Do not forget that.]
Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of getting very graphically across the message in relation to this motion, I want Members of this National Assembly to conjure up a situation whereby, as in the United States of America today...
I was indicating to, more or less, get the situation and the scenario graphically communicated. I want to let Members here conjure up a scenario whereby President Obama of the United States of America would have sold off half of Texas and constituted a corporate entity, private in nature, in which he then takes the sale of the assets on behalf of Texas, puts it inside of that private company and after putting it there the private company’s board of directors then goes and builds a Marriott Hotel USA. That is the scenario. What would the House of Representative Members do if indeed President Obama did that? If that could just be held for one moment, I will then proceed now to show how very irregular what has happened here with the money of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and the public and how they spend in the context... It is very much an analogy that the Members on the Government side are going to appreciate when I come to the end of my speech.
This is a contentious, controversial, but I must say, history making motion in this august Assembly, titled “Public Monies On Marriot Hotel Be Halted Until Approval By The National Assembly.” This motion seeks to get to the bottom of that private company called NICIL which is quickly becoming a quasi Consolidated Fund for the Government’s special spending. This motion seeks to reveal how Government, through the device of this company, NICIL, is flouting our constitutional provisions concerning the public purse and, more particularly, how that important institution, that is this National Assembly, is being overlooked in relation to public moneys, how it has been made impotent in relation to how spending and investments of public moneys should be done and how a board, a set of Members there, comprised, as far as my recollection goes, the Hon. Minister of Finance, Mr. Brassington, Dr. Luncheon, Geoffrey DaSilva and, I think, Ms. Sonia Roopnauth, by its action of holding on to State’s revenues in the account of NICIL and then spending same on a project, this infamous Marriott Hotel project costing some US$52 million...
Ordinarily what would have happened when there was a capital project, such as a Marriott Hotel, it would have come here under either the budget, capital estimates, or under the Appropriation Act earlier this year, under some item where there would have been a proper agency head and a voted provision sought. That is what capital projects’ procedures would have been. Parliamentarians would have had the ability and capacity to ask questions based on the legend and could have done so to the Minister who would have been bound to answer. Parliamentarians then could have voted on that item and if they would have wanted to reduce or to cut that project, it could have so been done. That is the procedure for processing our taxpayers’ finances into a major capital project such as the construction of a hotel, one as big as the Marriott Hotel project, but that is missing here. This National Assembly cannot scrutinise this capital project neither can we vote on it when the State revenue, taxpayers’ moneys, in the quantity of some US$21 million out of that US$52 million, is going into this project. We do not have a line item. We do not have an agency head. We cannot ask questions on the legend. We cannot even vote on it.
Before I touch on those important matters more specifically, I want to state my purpose for the first WHEREAS clause which mentions a previous motion brought here by Mr. Carl Greenidge and it is now Resolution 14 of 27th June, 2012. This resolution of the House must be appreciated for what it is. It is a command of this House that the Minister of Finance makes financial provision for the commissioning of an independent audit of NICIL, that a report be provided to the House as to the sale of all State assets entrusted to NICIL, including terms on which they were disposed. From all appearances, this command of this House, through that resolution, is not being heeded. It seems like the Minster and the company, NICIL, have certain immunities and privileges which entitle them, the Minister and NICIL, to dismiss this honourable House’s command. It is as though they are beyond scrutiny, beyond reproach and beyond accountability. Well I want to reassure this House that this Opposition, and at least the Alliance For Change, will not make it happen.
NICIL, vicariously through the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Finance, personally, are accountable to this House and that is a concept that they apparently do not understand. They are accountable to this National Assembly. This House must not countenance such an exercise of defiance of the Assembly’s command from a company, the veil of which when lifted reveals that section of the Cabinet well known as the financial sultanate of Guyana - the Hon. Minister of Finance, Dr. Luncheon of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) fame, Mr. Brassington of so many other companies fame, et al. This House must express, in this motion, its concerns – I had to delete the word “repugnance”, Sir – about the conduct of those players involved. It is what I regard as something that is wrong which ought to be extended to the Government which, as I said, in a sense, is encouraging that conduct of NICIL. This exercise of defiance to this House’s command reveals that NICIL, and the prime movers behind it, has this disposition of reconfiguring what the financial architecture of this State is.
I wish to lay against NICIL and its prime movers the activity of arranging for the vesting of State lands known as Block Alpha in Kingston into the proprietorship, unto NICIL, by no other person but the Minister of Finance. There is the vesting Order which makes NICIL and its prime owners look even worse.
For those who do not know, Minister Ashni Singh, by an Order dated 23rd day of November, 2010, under powers granted to him, I concede, by the Public Corporations Act of 1988, which only permits the vesting of State lands to public corporations, not privately incorporated companies under the Companies Act - then erroneously thinking that he had such powers - vested it in to the private NICIL - this Block Alpha.
Mr. Anand Goolsarran – he used to be the Auditor General of this country – in a brilliant piece, “Revisiting NICIL Part 2,” which by the way went uncontroverted, and it was published in the Stabroek News of 9th October, 2011, was one of those who discovered, of what I will call, the wrong. I had the word illegality here but I had to delete it. He wrote about it recently. Mr. Christopher Ram, also, earlier had done so in very many articles in his business page in the Stabroek News newspaper. This is what the former Auditor General, whom I respect and I am certain those over there respect him too, after his researching of the matter had to say.
“NICIL is a body corporate owned by the State and a private limited liability company incorporated under the Companies Act. While section 6 of the Public Corporations Act permits the concerned Minister by Order to reconstitute a company in which controlling interests vest in the State in to a public corporation, there is no evidence that this was done in respect of NICIL. NICIL, therefore, is not a public corporation in the context of the provisions of the Public Corporations Act. It follows, then, that section 5 is not applicable and therefore moveable and immoveable property of the state cannot be vested in NICIL.”
The Minister of Finance may want to answer, when his time comes, when it was that he reconstituted NICIL from a private company into a public corporation under the Public Corporations Act 1988. Let us see the Order which was subject to negative resolution or the notification in the Gazette, whichever one applies to that reconstitution.
It is important to understand that, indeed, the Hon. Minister can vest public lands from one public corporation to another public corporation or from the State to a public corporation by vesting Order but he cannot do so – I have studied the provisions too – under the Public Corporations Act in favour of a private company. Otherwise, he could easily vest away our lands to any private company – Queens Atlantic Investment Inc. (QAII) – and that is not the architecture financial framework of our State
The vesting by the Minister of Finance of State property Block Alpha to a private company, which he along with others controls at NICIL, is most troubling. This prime State land was not even given a valuation, but valuators, who I have spoken to, have indicated that it is no less than approximately US$2 million. It does not end there. After vesting the land worth so much, the Minister, as Chairman of NICIL, along with the other Members thereof then set up a subsidiary company called Atlantic Hotels Incorporated (AHI), which is run now by the board and Mr. Brassington, who is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NICIL, and had this Block Alpha lease. It was vested to NICIL from the State, from the Minister to the Chairman of the Board, and now to AHI for ninety-nine years at one Guyana dollar per square foot. This thing is incestuous, so much so that, as a matter of course, it will breed deformity. What is that deformity, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Goolsarran, again, pointed out:
“If the Minister has deemed NICIL to be a public corporation, mistakenly or otherwise, and has transferred assets to it, then he has a duty to comply with the Public Corporations Act and not the incorporation documents of the private company.”
This is the smartness about it. The Government uses NICIL conveniently as a public corporation to vest prime lands to it and it is not, by the way, a public corporation. To continue the argument, assuming it is a public corporation, when it is time to spend the proceeds from the property, it regards it as a private company so that it could spend as it wants. That is not under the Public Corporations Act. All moneys, under the Public Corporations Act, of a public corporation must go to the Consolidated Fund. It is so conveniently and cleverly used and because of the inconvenience of the Public Corporations Act, as I mentioned here, its disposal is in accordance with a private company. The Government falls back conveniently under the Companies Act for purposes of disposal. What all of this would necessarily mean is that NICIL ought not to have been in this rental business of a dollar per square foot.
I want to bring to the attention of this honourable House that when NICIL was created its purpose was for the subscribing for, taking or otherwise acquiring or holding shares, stocks, debentures or other financial instrument of any company, co-op society or body corporate. It ought not, then, to be in the business of forming subsidiaries and then renting its properties to these subsidiaries in such sordid incestuousness as present here. This is improper; this is wrong.
It should be understood that NICIL was formed initially to monitor the performance of state- owned and controlled entities and other Government investments and to ensure all revenues derived are collected and paid over to the Consolidated Fund. In addition to having State property vested in its favour, NICIL goes on to form a subsidiary company and then rent. Apparently, it wants to get into the real estate business.
But more, NICIL also takes billions of dollars that it has from the takings of privatisation proceeds from the sale of land, the sale of shares in public corporations, the sale of State assets, the sale of State shares and then hives those moneys into its bank account. I understand that only recently the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) paid over about a quarter of a million dollars to NICIL rather than, as the Constitution commands, place all of those moneys into the Consolidated Fund. I submit that it is not to put those moneys into the Consolidated Fund is State misappropriation. NICIL then treats those moneys as its private property with an unhindered, unencumbered capacity to spend the moneys as it likes, so that the financial sultanates such as hotels, Marriott style…, and so they take the moneys and spend them.
I had done a paper on it entitled, “The Marriott is a Ponzi Scheme.” Again, it went uncontroverted. I had said in that article that $2 million out of that $21 million went to some Pakistani American, close friend of the former President, to do the design of the Marriott Hotel. Moneys totalling some $21 million will have to be put into this project by NICIL - $4 million as equity.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Ali, you can object on a Point of Order if there is anything that he is saying is not true.
Mr. Ali: I will say something about that just now.
Mr. Speaker: Okay. If there is anything that he is saying is not true, you may rise on a point of order and correct him.
Mr. Ali: I will speak just now.
Mr. Speaker: Thanks.
Mr. Ramjattan: I will show in a moment that this $21 million can turn out to be lots more in the long term. NICIL’s moneys are public moneys and it cannot spend them like that. What NICIL has in its bank account, which it will invest into the construction of the Marriott Hotel, is public money. The Fiscal Management and Accountability Act 2003 makes it clear what public moneys are. There is a definition in there. It means all moneys belonging to the State, received or collected by officials in their official capacity or by any person – and that means legal person too – authorised to receive and collect such moneys. That is what the FMAA states. That superior law called the Constitution, which was being heralded so much by my learned friend Mr. Nandlall, article 216 states this:
“All public moneys raised and received by Guyana shall be paid in to and form one Consolidated Fund.”
NICIL has not been paying in these public moneys in to the treasury – our Consolidated Fund – and the moneys are amounting to a large sum, really large. Since 2002, NICIL acquired the following state-owned entities for zero consideration. National Edible Oil Company (NEOCOL) – one hundred per cent ownership, Guyana National Printers Limited (GNPL) – 99.6 per cent ownership. I do not know who has the point four per cent. Guyana National Shipping Limited (GNSL) – one hundred per cent, Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) – one hundred per cent, Property Holdings – 73.1 per cent, Bauxite Industry Development Company (BIDCO) – one hundred cent, Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC) – one hundred per cent plus twenty per cent of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) shares which was recently sold for US$30 million to a Chinese company called the Datang Telecom Technology & Industry Group. It has a ten per cent share in the Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB) Trust, Omai Gold Mines Limited – five per cent and Guyana Stores Limited (GSL) – three per cent.
This private company, by the way, also has in its name a number of prime real estate lands since 2002. I will just deal with the ones for the year 2002 because it had a lot more transferred to it since 1999. Disposal of these properties means a windfall and in relation to some we do not know whether they have been disposed and at what prices. That is what Resolution 24 from Mr. Carl Greenidge is asking for, but from what we know it has sold and retained moneys for the following properties: 5.6 acres to Banks DIH at Plantation Ruimveldt. I understand that it was for tens of millions of dollars. It sold 4.1 acres to Prittipaul Investments; it sold 0.2 acres to Hampton Incorporated; three acres to the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) in which it has put up that very beautiful bank there and that was worth a couple of a hundred million dollars; 18.8 acres to Queens Atlantic Incorporated – the famous Ramroop – at Plantation Ruimveldt and one hundred and three acres to National Hardware at Liliendaal and Pattensen.
This private company is estimated by some businessmen, who I spoke to recently, as being the wealthiest company in the country. All of its assets are belonging to taxpayers, which means State assets, State revenues and public moneys, and it is controlled by this little sultanate of six or seven members. I was asked by the Kaieteur News newspaper about four months ago what was the estimated amount and I said $50 billion. I may be wrong, Mr. Speaker, but I would certainly like the Minister to tell the House how much it is that is in there today.
This company, with all of those State lands, all public moneys and all public property, has also a massive financial platform. It then can go to the bank and arrange loans of big amounts, such as it is doing in relation to this Marriott Hotel project. It wants a subordinate loan of some $21 million which it is going to put in to this Marriott Hotel project as if that money belongs to those six directors and as if it does not belong to the State, which means then they ought to come here, in this National Assembly, for approval for any spending or investment.
Surely, any company which has its private moneys, properties and actual hard cash, such as Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) and Banks DIH, can go and invest in whatever grand scheme it wants. It can go and build a hotel if it wants, but taxpayers moneys – public moneys, State revenues - can only be spent and invested through this National Assembly. That is the big point that I want to make in relation to the second clause, now the first resolve clause. That is the law of this land. All public moneys for spending must pass through here. If it is a project that is capital in nature, as I mentioned here, we have to question it. We have to have a legend. As the late Mr. Winston Murray always called for, we want more details on it and specificity and all of that. We do have it. That is the law of this land. Anything else is executive lawlessness and it is wholly unconstitutional. I have another word but I have to delete it.
Section 85 of the FMAA makes that very clear that when one breaches the provisions of the FMAA, it is a crime and one can go to jail. Article 217 of the Constitution provides that no moneys shall be withdrawn unless by legislative authorisation. We know that. That is elementary for us parliamentarians. This Government is aware of that and yet it allows NICIL to do as it does, knowing that provision, with its eyes wide open. This use of NICIL by Government as an instrument for spending, then through a sub instrument called AHI to do so in that very irregular way, is corruption in broad daylight.
Taxpayers’ moneys, which are in NICIL’s accounts, are going to be used to substantially underwrite the financing of this proposed hotel project. From all indications, as I mentioned earlier, Sir, this sum will be approximately $21 million out of the $52 million. It is $4 million in equity, $2 million in design fees and almost $15 million in a subordinate loan stock to come from some bank. An additional sum of $27 million, rated as a senior debt, is to be syndicated by some important bank. There is no disclosure as to who will be guaranteeing all of these loans. The Alliance For Change (AFC) believes that ultimately it will be a governmental obligation. The Minister can rebut if that may not be the case.
From the documents which were released based upon certain questions that I asked earlier this year, the Minister of Finance, on the proposed Marriott Hotel project, demonstrated clearly that this Government’s disposition is one of compromising the interest of Guyanese tax dollars.
In the case of a default, which we are saying is inevitable, the people of Guyana will lose, at the very least, US$21 million. Whilst in configuring this arrangement for the spending and investment of the Government by Government, which we trust to act in our interest and which is obligated to do so, would NICIL’s $27 million, which is going to come from the senior debt, be subordinated to that of NICIL’s $21 million? Perhaps, the Minister will answer.
When we had asked in this National Assembly, also, for certain feasibility studies in relation to this Marriott Hotel project we were told that we cannot see it because it was a private contractual matter, but when it comes to moneys, which are going to be spent on such a project, we know that they are public moneys. Why, then, if it is public moneys we cannot get some light into or a peep into the feasibility.
I want to also address why this sub instrument called AHI – Atlantic Hotels Inc. – without being properly capitalised and therefore without the capacity to deliver entered in to a contract with that Chinese company for the construction of a $52 million hotel. I want to know the answer to that question because it is rather strange that a company which has nothing to do with anything of an hotel is entering in to this agreement for this massive amount of money. I want to surmise that, indeed, that has happened because both AHI and NICIL are instruments of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic Government’s spending that are outside of the legal architecture financial framework.
There is no commercial justification for this massive spending on a hotel when occupancy rates are so low in Guyana. [Interruption from Government Members.] Please give me the feasibility study. You are talking about feasibility and you do not want to give the study and all of the other hoteliers in this country are saying that occupancy rates are so low. The AFC is, therefore, inclined to believe that the only motive is to defraud the taxpayers of their moneys, just as what happened to shareholders in Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) when Government allowed US$34 million to go overseas for some real estate business of Mr. Duprey from Trinidad and Tobago. The foregoing issues are compounded, by a lack of viability, as I mentioned. [Mr. Ali: Where is economic analysis? How is it not viable? Tell me.] That is why we would like to see your feasibility. You are asking me for it. Why do you not give it to me? I asked for it. [Mr. Ali: We invited you.] You invited me.
Many investments in the local hotel industry have gone bust because of low occupancy as well as the perennial issues of crime, unreliable and uncompetitive electricity, a dirty city and poor drainage, which will retard development from local tourism, even amongst Guyanese who are longing to come back home, much less foreign tourists.
I recall the case of one investor group failing in its quest to buy Guyana’s iconic Pegasus Hotel for $14 million because none of the banks would lend that sum of money to it. It could not have raised the required financing because the banks found it too risky and that is our prime hotel. The proposed $52 million for the Marriott Hotel is a far cry from that $14 million. For years now credible investors have shied away. I know that two hotels are up for sale in Main Street and although discounts in prices are given they are not going.
I am saying that at this stage if $52 million, primarily $21 million is from Government’s taxpayers’ moneys, is being invested one has to indicate by the time this hotel is constructed and all that happens and profits start coming in, years would have passed and we would have had to pay interest on that principal. We will have to. That will accumulate. According to an economical analysis which was done by Mr. Christopher Ram, it would be in excess of $6 million more in three years. This is giving a cost to our taxpayers’ money. Do you know what? What we are seeing, in relation to this hotel, is that those important components of it are going to go not necessarily to the management of the hotel; it will go to the Marriott International. We will have to pay it a management fee of ten per cent. We will have to also sell off, as was recently done, the casino aspect of it and I understand, also, the restaurant aspect of it.
I feel that with all of this money being spent when we have so many priorities which are far more important, if, indeed, the feasibility study is saying that the country is doing well, why are private people not wanting to invest that US$21 million. At the ultimate stage, we might have to do a bailout, as with CLICO.
If the Government really believes, in this project,… why is it that the named American firm’s feasibility studies, and so on, are not being produced for the public scrutiny? Guyana has a strong and progressive private sector. I was there when the Hon. Minister of Finance was talking to a large group at the Pegasus Hotel. There is also talk that Guyana has a good investment climate. Those private people would invest in any viable venture which makes a good return. The local banks are flushed with liquidity. They are hunting for such projects. The hotel sector, then, must be invested in by those private sector companies if the feasibility is so good. Unlike investments by the State, the private sector investments have beneficial, fiscal effects to the economy. When private people invest their moneys, they pay their duties; they pay their Valued Added Tax (VAT); they pay their corporate taxes. When it is a public scenario, such as this, hardly any of those are paid.
Rather than focusing on building this hotel, the Marriott International, and then paying it ten per cent to operate it, Government should focus and commit the very resources to addressing the everyday problems of poor infrastructure, roads, drainage, unreliable electricity, crime, public health, unemployment, and even our NIS might need some money. Some of this money should go into the University of Guyana to enhance a programme on tourism.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that the arrangement involving NICIL and the Government of Guyana raises – I emphasise it because I think I made mention of it – serious questions as to the governance in the use of taxpayers’ money. NICIL has been, literally, a slush fund for deals involving the powers that be and their favourites and friends. This company, headed by those members of the sultanate and controlled there with active encouragement of the Government, has diverted billions of taxpayers’ dollars away from the Consolidated Fund and therefore away from parliamentary scrutiny.
The AFC has been demanding, for some time now, that all funds of NICIL to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund and a forensic audit be carried out on that almost chameleon company. It is public operation one time and then it is private company at another time, public operation for vesting and private operation for spending. It has to be one and not the other.
We seem to have an adverse reaction from His Excellency the President, because I notice he was there to visit. It is not a good sign at all. Whatever is the case, as regards encouragement from the President or the Government, the National Assembly must not allow this scandalous occurrence to go un-condemned. This Assembly must always have its gaze fixed on how - with increasingly clever devices in disingenuous methods - this PPP Government seeks to degut this National Assembly of its power over the public purse. We must never let that happen. I seek every Member to understand this Ponzi scheme and to support this motion in my name.
Thank you. [Applause]
Mr. Ramjattan (replying): I must say, in rebuttal, after hearing the debate here from this side and the Government side, that in connection with what was exclusively said by the Government side, it has not addressed the issue as to parliamentary scrutiny of public moneys. I want to indicate that what we had as a reasoning from the Hon. Minister of Finance as to article 216, that which is in the parenthesis, is so flawed and erroneous that I noticed that the Attorney General kept clear of it. Let me just say this: It is a fundamental role of Parliament to always scrutinise the public purse. Under Title 8 of our Constitution, article 216 states:
“All revenues or other moneys raised or received by Guyana (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under an Act...”
This Minister was trying to use that parenthesis to indicate that it means the Companies Act. There could have been never any contemplation by the framers of this Constitution under financial architectures in colonial times nor even in republican times that a company, although it came under an Act, would be where moneys can become payable to. It has to be a specific Act that states a certain fund will be created, such as the Lotto Funds, and that fund will keep the moneys. It all must be for purposes of going into the fund to run that Lotto’s company business. [An Hon. Member (Government): Why can GuySuCo...?] I am indicating to you that you cannot, and this is an outrageous interpretation of a major article of the Constitution. It is intellectual dishonesty, if I may say so. [Dr. Singh: On what basis is it intellectual dishonesty?] It is because it is clearly stating, and it is only in parenthesis, that the major, primary purpose of that article is all revenues to go into the Consolidated Fund.
More than that, to flesh it out, the Fiscal Management and Accountability Act indicated – when we passed this I remember he was not here; there was another Minister here as far as I recall - ... It was passed and I remember the very brilliant Mr. Winston Murray indicating that, yes, there can be certain Extra-budgetary Fund and the fund must come by a specific Act of Parliament and the specificity of that Act of Parliament which will then make the fund to be kept in that rather than be put into the Consolidated Fund. That is in section 39. “An Extra-budgetary Fund may be created by an Act which legislation shall set out - the officials who will undertake the financial arrangement...”, and all of that, and it specifies what the requirements for these Acts, as spoken about in article 216, are. Moreover, after section 39, we put in also a very important section, section 40, that whatever the Government does with these Extra-budgetary Funds and funds that will remain there it has to let the parliamentary process, at least, see what is happening. This is what section 40 states:
“Subject to any other law, resources allocated from any Extra-budgetary Fund for the purpose of financing Government social or economic development projects shall be included in the relevant investment plan and programmes of expenditure contained in the annual budget and such resources shall be processed through the Consolidated Fund.”
That is what it is saying. Article 216 was given flesh by the FMAA and it indicates that those moneys from those budgetary funds are extra-budgetary and come with a specific parliamentary Act must pass through the Consolidated Fund. That is what we have here. The Hon. Minister of Finance is now saying that we could put them into a private company and because companies come under the Companies Act we could do what we want to. It is an outrageous thing to talk and a double farce in relation to accountancy to come here and say that. My goodness! [Dr. Singh: What is a double farce?] It is whatever it is. You are a smart guy, but you are being covert here. [Dr. Singh: I do not understand it; explain it.] You and your financial sultanate...
I want to indicate too that the Members on the Government side seem not to want to appreciate article 217 (1), “No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except...” There are the exceptions, and the exceptions are stated here, but all must be deposited here, and when the Government wants to spend it, it has to come here. The Members on the Government side did not address that – none of them. They want to now do a fanciful and whimsical interpretation of that parenthesis to say well NICIL was formed under the Companies Act so that is the Act that this parenthesis is talking about. It is not talking about that.
The case my learned friend was talking about that occurred with Justice Stoby has no relevance whatsoever. NICIL indeed can sell properties; we understand that, but the moneys must go into the Consolidated Fund. If the Government wants to spend it on Marriott or Gangnum, or whatever it is, it has to get the National Assembly’s approval. That is where the Members on the Government side are mistaken. That is the trouble where...
I want it to be understood that when this motion came with those clauses, and I had added that first one about the repugnance in their conduct, it had to do with these provisions all being literally damaged beyond redemption.
I want to also make this very important point again that we are not blocking any social or economic development. We are ensuring that there to be lawfulness and that the procedural proprieties be met before we do it. I want to indicate that when the Members of the Government side were quoting Jamaica, Trinidad and the Hyatt Hotel, and all of that, the public aspect of the moneys in that partnership had to pass through what is called the Capital Estimates of Trinidad’s Parliament. [An Hon. Member (Government): No!] It had to! Parliament had to approve of it. [Dr. Singh: Show me where it is.] Show you where! I am saying so and I will show you where. It has to be passed here. They do not want to listen to that.
I am also indicating that there is a scenario where the Minister of Finance did indicate that there was an Order in which the Government made NICIL a public corporation, as it were. [Dr. Singh: ...[inaudible]] What did you do? [Dr. Singh: You should have been paying attention.] I indicated in my address if he would mind showing me where. It is true. This is the point here. I want to know that indeed it is a public corporation, because this is the rebuttal. Being a public corporation, it has to now, under section 23 of the Public Corporations Act, come under that regime. What is the regime of the Public Corporations Act? That is why I was making the point that the Government conveniently wants NICIL to be a public corporation and conveniently wants it to be a private company. If it reconstitutes NICIL, a private entity, into a public corporation, it then has to live with the regime that the Public Corporations Act talks about and that, under section 23 (7), is stating this:
“Any direction given under subsection (6) by the concerned Minister, with reference to a corporation fully owned by the State or any agency on behalf of the State, may require the whole or any part of the proceeds of any such disposal to be paid into the Consolidated Fund:”
Again, it is saying that okay you want to mix it up now... [Mr. Nandlall: You are making up your own argument now.] It is not making up an argument. Indeed if it was not, we had the scenario where it could not apply. The Government is making now that indeed it was a public corporation. It has to live with that regime and that regime is one of a public corporation. Public corporations must put their proceeds in the Consolidated Fund. It does not want to do that. It is saying NICIL is a private company. That is why Mr. Irfaan Ali was not saying that it was a public corporation. He said it is a private company. It could buy and sell and it could do all kinds of things. Private companies, if they are now reconstituted into public corporation, must come under the Public Corporations Act and they must live with the consequences of that regime. [Mr. Nandlall: Read... [inaudible]] Mr. Attorney General, you could say what you want but you must learn to be the custodian of this Constitution rather than just go around hammering it all over the place.
I want to indicate that the Members on the Government have not addressed the issue here and they talked a lot about how we are blocking development. What they have done is also, on the point favouring Mr. Badal... They are saying that I am a lobbyist for Mr. Badal. When Mr. Yesu Persaud had said that they were wrong about Ramroop getting all the duty-free concessions and all the concessions, they said that Mr. Yesu Persaud was an ignoramus. They came here with all kinds of thoughts. What did they do? They then had to come back here with a piece of law to say that they were wrong and that the illegality has to be legalised and that is what they did. That is what they are doing here too. They have already tarnished and did a lot of sleight and slur against a premier businessman, Mr. Badal, in the hotel industry by indicating here that I am lobbying for him to keep his monopoly. [Ms. Shadick: That is what you are doing.] My goodness. This patriotic...
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, in my presentation, I have complimented Mr. Badal for the improvement in Pegasus Hotel. I have complimented him and so has the Minister.
Mr. Ramjattan: You can say what you want. You insulted him.
Mr. Lumumba: I insulted you!
Mr. Speaker: One second. At the end of the evening, the litmus test is whether Mr. Badal feels comfortable with the publicity he has received today.
Mr. Ramjattan: I am certain he will not be. I have nothing about Mr. Badal in my resolve clauses – absolutely nothing – but they started personalising the issue. They want to divert our gaze from the actual constitutional breaches to come to the conclusion that we are supporting Mr. Badal.
This is the only working class Government that is funding a multinational corporation. That is what it is doing there now. All its anti-imperialist talk and its working class this and that and it is now going to take taxpayers’ money, sugar cane workers’ money, to go fund for US$21 million Marriott International. Look at the Members on the Government side. Look at the working class people, the so-called Socialists, Marxists and Leninists. “Y’all aint shame?” They want to slaughter a champion of an entrepreneur that put his moneys into a hotel here and took the risk. They want to put private people’s money...
I want to let them understand that the purpose of this National Assembly, which is the sovereign entity after the people, is it should make the decisions on all these major matters. Article 9 of the Constitution makes it quite clear that sovereignty resides with the people and or their representatives in the relevant bodies. The representatives here have an obligation to ensure that we be the custodians of the provisions of the Constitution if the Hon. Attorney General and the Minister of Finance do not want to. If they do not want to be custodians of the provisions of the Constitution and of the FMAA, we will do that. They can come with all their sleight of hand arguments that we could now put it in the private company and do whatever we want. It is outrageous what I have seen here. Let me tell the learned Attorney General that indeed we will be going to court, but we did not want him to raise a sub judice argument here. We want this motion to be passed first and then we are going to go there. I want to see what his arguments would have been. [Mr. Nandlall: I am very happy.] You are very happy. Then you are coming and quoting all kinds of wrong cases in relation to Justice Stoby.
We agree that there must be Government and private partnership - I want to end on that - but the Government part of it must be approved by this Assembly. It must be scrutinised. What kind of shady deal do you want to have which you only would like in the executive branch and we, being the representatives of the people here, the true, sovereign body, are not going to see it? Well what is that? We are not going to fall for that kind of sleight of hand. [Mr. Neendkumar: What do you want?] We want total scrutiny. Indeed, if you are saying that the Marriott Hotel project has so much merit about it, show us the feasibility study. [Mr. Nadir: You do not want to see it.] We do not want to see it. Let the people see that feasibility study. You do not want to.
Let me say that those speakers over there did not have much to say on the actual resolve clauses and they were very wordy about the motion. They talked plenty but they did not address these issues. I am urging the Members here that they must, in the context of what I have just articulated as the arguments as to why it is the resolve clauses of this motion must be supported, notwithstanding all the manner of claptrap, drumming and dancing,... We want always to ensure scrutiny of the public purse, its spending and investments. This is the first time it is to see a company siphons off moneys from the Consolidated Fund. Do not do it. It is completely wrong and the Government knows it but it does not want to believe it.
Please, I urge then that Members of this House support this motion as it is in relation to those two resolve clauses and so we can have another command from this House. The Hon. Attorney General said it has no binding effect. That is the impotency he wants here. [Mr. Nandlall: The books said so; it is not me.] When they had the majority in the Ninth Parliament, everything had potency about it. That is what they do not understand. [Mr. Nandlall: The books said so.] You cannot get pass here. You must understand that we have a right to scrutinise. Your garrulous nature is not going to damage the validity of my argument.
Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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