Lands and Surveys issued lease for land it does not own
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Attorney-General and Legal Affairs Minister, S.C. Anil Nandlall
Attorney-General and Legal Affairs Minister, S.C. Anil Nandlall

By Richard Bhainie

THE Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) is once again at the centre of attention after it was highlighted that lands which were leased by the GL&SC to Cevons Waste Management Inc. did not belong to the Commission.

The lands, situated at Area C, Tract B, Le Repentir, Georgetown, was leased by the former Commissioner of the GL&SC, Trevor Benn, under the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) administration to Cevons Waste Management Inc.

In a letter seen by this publication, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, S.C. on Tuesday, wrote to Morse Archer, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cevons Waste Management Inc., instructing him to vacate the said lands or face legal proceedings.

Former GL&SC Commissioner, Trevor Benn

Former Commissioner Benn, on behalf of the Government of Guyana, on or about December 18, 2018 purported to issue a lease for the said lands to Cevons Waste Management Inc. for a term of 50 years.

The Attorney-General, in his letter, explained that the lands in question are owned by the National Sports Commission (NSC), a body corporate established by virtue of the National Sports Commission Act 1993, which is separate from GL&SC.

“The then Commissioner knew, as did you, that the lands are owned by the National Sports Commission (NSC) by Act No. 23 of 1993,” Nandlall wrote in his letter to Archer.

He further elaborated and reminded Archer that Cevons Waste Management Inc. previously held a purported lease from the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown (M&CC) in respect of the same lands.

That lease was void for the same reason that the legal title to the lands located at Area C, Tract B, Le Repentir, Georgetown, did not reside with the M&CC either.

Cevons Waste Management Inc. CEO, Morse Archer

“Similarly, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) has no legal authority to lease the said land to your company or any one,” Nandlall explained in the letter.

The Attorney-General noted that in those regards, every purported dealing with the said lands is unlawful, null, void and of no effect.

Accordingly, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and lease which contains a promise to sell the lands to Cevons Waste Management Inc. are both unlawful, void and of no effect.

NO LAWFUL AUTHORITY

Nandlall further highlighted in his letter that Benn did not possess lawful authority to promise to sell the lands to Cevons Waste Management Inc. as that authority is vested with the President.

“The power to sell State lands resides with the President by virtue of Section 3 (1) of the State Lands Act, Chapter 62:01 and was never delegated to the former Commissioner,” the Attorney-General noted.

He also highlighted that Cevons Waste Management Inc. paid a substantial sum of money pursuant to a MoU which appears to be a sum of money paid to secure the grant of lease and title to the lands.

The Attorney-General indicated that this is not a mechanism provided for in the State Lands Act and Regulations made thereunder, and is a procedure unheard of at the GL&SC.

“That this entire transaction was done without the knowledge and authority of the owner of the lands, the National Sports Commission (NSC), simply compounds the impropriety and illegality which permeated it,” the Attorney-General said.

He informed Archer that the NSC has plans to utilise the lands in question for the development of sports and for the construction of facilities in relation thereto and in the circumstances, Cevons, nor its sub-lessees have any right to use or occupy the property.

Failure to vacate the premises on or before March 31, 2021 would result in legal proceedings being filed against Cevons Waste Management Inc. and its sub-lessees and the matter would be reported to the Criminal Investigation Department of the Guyana Police Force.

It was also recently reported that a whopping $27 million was paid pursuant to a MoU between JANICO Industrial Engineering Limited and the GL&SC for the leasing of State lands that are seemingly non-existent.

The MoU, seen by the Guyana Chronicle, was entered into by Benn and JANICO Industrial Engineering Limited, on May 8, 2017, for the leasing of six acres of State land at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.

However, a letter seen by this publication, from GL&SC Commissioner (ag) Enrique Monize to the Attorney-General seeking guidance on the matter, explained that there are no such lands under the control of GL&SC.

Additionally, in another matter, the Attorney-General has written to Wilfred Brandford, a board member of the GL&SC under the APNU+AFC administration, asking him to relinquish undervalued lands he obtained weeks after the March 2, 2020 elections.

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