Property Matters – St Augustine Nurseries part two

Property Matters – St Augustine Nurseries part two

The previous column detailed the ways in which this HDC project was being pursued in breach of existing land and housing policy. In this article I will go further, to specify the HDC’s statutory responsibilities, which it is legally bound to discharge. I will also examine the potential for a judicial review of the prospective decision to approve this project.

In addition to the land-use policy points made last week, the HDC is a statutory agency of the State, created by the HDC Act 2005. The HDC’s functions and duties are specified at S.13 (1) –

“…13. (1) Subject to this Act, it shall be the function and duty of the Corporation to—
(a) do all things necessary and convenient for or in connection with the provision of affordable shelter and associated community facilities for low- and middle-income persons…”

The law lists the low-income persons ahead of the middle income persons, which would conventionally denote a priority. The first item in a list taking precedence over the second and so on, but that is straight-line thinking and that is not where we are. Not at all.

HDC’s official responses to my queries stated that less than 22% of the 13,484 new homes allocated between 2003 and 2015 were given for rent. That is a scandalous misallocation of Public Money, given that 95% of the waiting-list comprises persons who cannot afford to buy a home, even on the most generous terms.

Last week, the PM announced plans for a $9 Billion investment in 10,000 new homes to be built in the coming months. That is a virtually unattainable target. Just remember that the original target in the 2002 housing policy was for 100,000 new homes in a decade, but in the 13-year period 2003-2015 only 11,788 new homes were completed. Yes, that’s right, the numbers do not match. HDC allocated 1,696 more homes than were completed in that period, but that is for another article. Continue reading “Property Matters – St Augustine Nurseries part two”

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Property Matters – St. Augustine Nurseries

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The previous article dealt with the Eden Gardens scandal, now before the Courts, which I termed ‘a most grievous case of Grand Corruption‘. I provided a list of ten questions for media colleagues to put to the accused and their spokespersons on this complex fraud.

Senior former Public Officials preferred the valuation advice of a civil servant, who was not professionally qualified, over that of a seasoned professional of 28 years’ post-qualification experience. I don’t think any reasonable person would adopt that approach if the health of their relatives or the wealth of their family was at stake, but some persons seem comfortable to defend that kind of decision. As David Rudder would say – ‘with a straight-straight face‘. I expect we will be subjected to less and less appearances from those persons.

This article will attempt to put the controversial “St. Augustine Nurseries project (North Grove Housing Development) into context with existing land and housing policy. This project is emblematic of what has gone so badly wrong in our state housing policy. To be entirely clear, in this case I am making no allegations of financial corruption or voter-padding. This case is one of ‘Phantom Policy‘ in which intentionally-suppressed policies, developed to advance the public interest, are either ignored or selectively invoked. As we say, is according. Continue reading “Property Matters – St. Augustine Nurseries”

VIDEO: World Press Freedom Day Mid-Day lecture

gpa-wpfd-posterAfra Raymond was the guest speaker of the Guyana Press Association at its Mid-Day Lecture on Thursday 3 May 2018, at Moray House in Georgetown, Guyana on World Press Freedom Day. He spoke on the theme, “Keeping Power in Check: Media Justice and the Rule of Law.” Video courtesy Guyana Press Association.

Programme Date: 3 May 2018
Programme length: 00:40:00 and 00:19:53

Property Matters – Eden Gardens case

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In November 2016, the State filed its lawsuit against certain former Public Officials and their presumed collaborators for alleged fraud in the HDC’s 2012 purchase of 50.5 acres at Eden Gardens in Freeport. The defendants named in that lawsuit were – Jearlean John (former HDC Managing Director), Henckle Lall (former HDC chairman), Greg Davis (former deputy HDC chairman), Peter Forde, Project Specialist Ltd, former commissioner of valuations Ronald Heeralal, Point Lisas Park Ltd, Anthony Sampath, Patrick Soon Ting and lastly, Everil Ross, who was formerly attached to the Valuation Division.

On 17th April 2018, the High Court dismissed the State’s lawsuit when it refused to grant the State further extensions of time to file its full case. That has been claimed by the defendants as a form of exoneration. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing.
Continue reading “Property Matters – Eden Gardens case”

CL Financial bailout – the Integrity Query

ic-logoYet another worrying aspect of the CL Financial (CLF) bailout fiasco is the role of the Integrity Commission (IC) in these turbid dealings. I am referring to the apparent failure or refusal of The Commission to carry out its duties in relation to CLF as required by the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).

I first raised the prospect that CLF might well be under the IC’s oversight on 28th May 2009, in an article entitled – Judgment Time – Moral Hazard part 3. I have been pursuing that concern steadily since September 2012 and yet the position of the IC is no clearer. On 9th September 2015, I again put the question – Is the integrity Commission being willfully blind towards CL Financial? Indeed, in my March 28th 2018 interview with the Trinidad Express, I stated, in relation to the governance aspects unearthed by my campaign –

“…What is more, our Integrity Commission also seems to have lost its way in failing to recognise that CL Financial is a company under State control. As a result, the Commission has sought no Directors’ declarations from the largest of the State controlled companies. I tell you…”

Given that these are very serious allegations to level against one of our nation’s Public Institutions, I will give the supporting details.
Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the Integrity Query”

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA details part two

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA details part two

One of the more interesting issues emerging from these EFPA details is the extent to which companies invested in what was approved as an individual investment instrument.

In the previous article, I detailed the significant investments made by State Enterprises, which prompted questions on the governance arrangements applicable to those companies. We know that companies made the investments in the names of individuals, that much was clear from the JSC’s 5th June 2015 Report on the EMBD. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the EFPA details part two”

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA Details, part one

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA Details, part one

Declaration

I was a Director of the Trinidad Building & Loan Association (1999-2013) when that organisation purchased EFPA investments and also when those sums were recovered during the bailout via the issue of 20-year bonds.

On Thursday, 22nd March 2018, the Ministry of Finance & The Economy, sent details of EFPA payments (in partial satisfaction of the Appeal Court’s Consent Order of 24th January 2018) under cover of a transmittal letter from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

The details provided are for payments of $10.8 Billion in Public Money to EFPA account holders between March 2011 and March 2015. That was an average payout of over $220M TTD per month in that four-year period and would correspond with the September 2011 Parliamentary approval for an additional $10.7 Billion to be spent on the CL Financial bailout. This all raises interesting issues as to the timing of these payments, as shown in this table –

PERIOD Minister of Finance statements on bailout costs EFPA payment details from Ministry of Finance COMMENTS
BEFORE 3rd April 2012 affidavit of Winston Dookeran Para 21 “…(a) $5.0Bn already provided to CLICO;
(b) $7.0Bn paid to holders of the EFPA…”
$6,229,920,482 There is an apparent discrepancy between these figures in the amount of $770,079,518
BETWEEN 3rd April 2012 and 1st October 2012 “…The cost to the national community has been substantial—an amount of $19.7 billion or 13.0 per cent of our current GDP $3,144,270,326 Larry Howai’s 2013 budget statement was that $7.7 Billion had been spent on the CLF bailout after Winston Dookeran’s affidavit. The details from the Ministry of Finance show that only $3.144 Billion of that could be attributable to EFPA payments.
AFTER 1st October 2012 Estimates have ranged from $20 Billion to the $27.7 Billion estimate on 10th May 2017 by the current Minister, Colm Imbert. $1,449,184,402 The Public Money spent after that date exceeds an estimated $6.0 Billion, only a part of which went to EFPA account holders.
$10,823,375,210

Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the EFPA Details, part one”