…House approves $800M to help pay off DIPCON
APPROXIMATELY $750M was cleared by the National Assembly for Trinidad construction company Dipcon, pending the outcome of a court case involving the company and the government.
The sum forms part of a larger amount – $800M – approved by the House on Thursday in response to a request made by the Finance Ministry. Rising to the floor, Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, said unlike previous provisions sought, he was not pleased about defending the request for $800M. “I don’t have a good feeling because the bulk of this money is slated for Dipcon due to an award that was made by the courts,” Minister Jordan told the House.
In 2015, the court had ordered the government to pay Dipcon approximately US$2.2M for infrastructural works done under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration. The finance minister said a decision was recently taken to approach the National Assembly for supplementary finances to offset the award. “It was decided (for us) to come to this house to vote (for) this money – monies that we don’t have, monies that are needed at the time when we have to find an additional $3.3B for the Guyana Elections Commission,” Minister Jordan said, noting that the award originated before the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government took office in 2015.
Minister Jordan told the House that the $750M would be held pending the outcome of the ongoing court case. He noted that the Dipcon case is one of the many cases that ended with the State having to pay billions of dollars due to the decisions and actions of the former PPP/C administration.
In May 2014, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had ordered the government to pay Surinamese beverage company, RUDISA, US$6M, however, in 2015, the APNU+AFC Government upon entering office, secured a reduction in the award. As such, it was only required to pay RUDISA $4.5M.
“Numerous judgments awarded by the court prior 2015, we have paid several of them, a number of them this House already knows, like the RUDISA judgment for the environmental tax that we flouted as a country that was awarded by the CCJ, and we have other billion-dollar awards that this government has had to find the money. But the mother of all awards is still facing us, an award that would tally around $6B for which the awardee has been after us for the last four-plus years,” Minister Jordan told the House. He said the billions of dollars being used to settle awards made by the court as a result of the actions of the PPP/C could have been used for developmental projects.
“I want this House to know because critical resources, critical resources that should have gone to pay wage increases, pay school teachers, (to build) roads, we have to keep diverting monies to pay judgments, the bulk of which originated prior to 2015, and I think the House and public must know this,” Minister Jordan said.
Meanwhile, approximately $50M of the $800M sought by the Finance Ministry would be used to facilitate increased activities by the government such as ministerial outreaches.
The $800M forms part of a Supplementary Bill approved by the National Assembly to the tune of $7.9B. Of the total sum, $79.5M was approved for the Ministry of Social Protection.
Like the Minister of Finance, Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, told the House that a percentage of the money would be used to clear debts left by the PPP/C administration.
“Mr. Chairman, I wish to indicate that this is an inherited indebtedness, since 2013,” Minister Ally said as she alluded to the sum of $9.3M in security services provided by a firm. It was noted that although Brans Security Services’ contract ended with the then government in 2014, it was never paid. The issue resurfaced during the government’s outreach in April when it was brought to the attention of the minister.
“The security service came out and laid its case, and, this government being a caring government, believes that Brans Security must be paid for services rendered, hence this request,” the social protection minister said. Also $6.5M was also approved to clear inherited debts. Minister Ally explained that RK’s Guyana Security was owed the sum by the previous administration, in addition to $8.7, which was also sought and approved.
Meanwhile, $25M was approved to assist those requesting help due to unexpected life situations. Also, $30M was approved under the Ministry of Social Protection to facilitate the completion of the ‘Drop-in’ Centre at Sophia, particularly to address gaps in fire prevention systems there.