Storage bond: Veteran trade unionist says gov’t treating “people’s business as personal properties”

Public Health Minister, Dr. George Norton, Trade Unionist, Lincoln Lewis and President David Granger

As controversy surrounding the circumstances under which government has moved to rent a medical bond facility continues, a trade unionist known for his outspokenness says the administration is exhibiting double standards and an unwillingness to uphold the standards of good governance.

General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Lincoln Lewis, says the manner in which an inquiry was launched into the medical bond deal smacks of double standards when compared to other inquires the administration has launched to probe wrongdoing.

“It is a double standard to engage in independent inquiries in matters on the stewardship of past administrations and those outside of cabinet, but when it comes to members of cabinet, the people’s business is treated as their personal properties,” Lewis said in a Facebook comment.

The trade unionist was referring to government’s decision to have a sub-committee comprised of Ministers look into the issues surrounding the medical storage facility contracted by the Ministry of Public Health. Among the issues regarding rental of the facility, was the single-sourcing of this service from a company not known to have expertise in this area and the advance payment of $25M to the company; Linden Holdings, which from all appearances, the company used to purchase the facility.

In denying this was indeed the case, the sub-committee was set up by President David Granger to probe the deal. It comprised Minister Raphael Trotman as its chairman, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

Several observers took issue with what they described as a case of government investigating itself.

“Any credible inquiry into the bond issue has to be done by an independent state agency and the police should have been called in,” Lewis stated.

Reporting on the findings of the probe, Trotman had said, “The Cabinet sub-committee discovered from the PS that though the cheque had been prepared it had not been paid over. We’ve asked that the immediate payment be made. Secondly, we are recommending that the contract be reviewed. Cabinet may choose the AG to do a review of the contract for the lease of the bond in Sussex Street.”

But Lewis contends that the failure of the administration to launch an independent probe “…raises doubts and suspicions about government’s intent and commitment to upholding modern standards of governance.”

On Saturday, former speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran weighed-in on the controversy  saying the deal will see Guyanese losing more than $9M per month, and when taken in its entirety, reeks of bad judgement on the part of government.