Pradoville II properties
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THE inappropriate acquisition of properties in Pradoville II by elected officials who are supposed to be protecting and advancing the interests of citizens is a threat to good governance. The main players behind this unacceptable act are from within the leadership of the former Executive.

It remains of concern to right-thinking Guyanese that former President Bharrat Jagdeo and his ministers could have ascribed to themselves the authority to transfer state properties to them and others.  It would be recalled when this activity was taking place, there were numerous concerns about the manner in which the Government was going about it, yet these were ignored.

The fact that members of the Cabinet felt public expressions could be ignored and somehow they are cocooned in the comfort that they are untouchable or think the people are less than deserving, should be of concern.

This attitude transmitted to the people that their elected representatives had no regard for them or respect for the laws. Among the concerns raised by the people were, in addition to not following established procedures to acquire the land, state institutions were used to provide water and other support services.

Clearly, it was decided by this group which lot who will acquire, and who outside of the circle will also benefit. The denial to the general citizenry an opportunity to acquire a lot at Pradoville II was a violation of the right of every Guyanese, under the Guyana Constitution, to own property. The use of state resources to develop these properties outside of the authorised agency, the Central Housing and Planning Authority, and then distributing land within the group at a price below market value is an abuse of authority, and synonymous with an act of misappropriation.

Revelations in the forensic audit on this housing development found that several acts committed in the distribution of lots are in breach of the standard procedures used for citizens in acquiring property belonging to the state.

Though some of the findings confirm accusations made about public officials –elected and appointed — prior to the audit Government never moved to address the accusations. Instead, when such were made, the Head of Government challenged the accusers to provide the evidence. The public was being asked to provide evidence even as the Government failed to put any system in place to facilitate opportunity to make formal the complaints and conduct inquires.

Now that there is an audit, bringing what have been found to conclusion require putting the findings fairly and squarely within the purview of the law. The Guyana Police Force should now be invited with the view of pursuing prosecution.  To strengthen the process, the state needs to invite to join the inquiry and prosecution, proficient investigators and prosecutors, from within and out of Guyana.

The opinion is noted that Guyana may not have the calibre of talents — investigators and prosecutors — needed to bring about justice and having to acquire same will cost the country a tidy sum of money. In responding to this opinion, the question that needs to be asked is: Can Guyana afford not to have personnel with the requisite skills to execute a task of this calibre?

A strong message needs to be sent, once and for all, to public officials that the properties of the state belong to the people, not them.  The privilege they are entrusted with by the people must be seen for what it is: sacrosanct, to be treated with respect and at all times ensuring the people’s business is conducted within the confines of the law.

Reacting to revelations in the forensic audit should not be thought to be that of political grandstanding. It will augur well for society when a clear act of setting the standard for the bar by which public officials will be expected to conduct themselves when treating with the people’s business is telegraphed. Should it be perceived that this is not what is intended, the society will remain sceptical as to when the privileged and connected classes will ever be held accountable when they treat with state properties at their whims and fancies.

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