– ‘We’re comfortable as a private company’ – Chairman Alexander
REGISTERING as a private company instead of as a friendly society, which is typical for non-governmental organisations (NGO), potentially enabled The International Decade for People of African Descent – Guyana (IDPADA-G) organisation to dodge many of the accountability measures required of civil society organisations.
In an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Thursday, IDPADA-G Chairman, Vincent Alexander, was questioned about the organisation’s registration status as a private company over being registered as an NGO.
“We feel more comfortable as a private company than as a friendly society. There is greater scope for interference in the business of friendly societies,” Alexander said.
In Guyana, the operations of NGOs are governed by the Friendly Societies Act, which requires that the organisations must have membership, a constitution, members’ meeting with minutes submitted, and all actions must be within the confines of the agreed constitution approved by the general membership.
Friendly Societies are registered under the Friendly Societies Act, which also enables the Director of Friendly Societies, housed at the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security (MoHSSS), to support the smooth functioning of those organisations through enhanced accountability to the public.
The Director may also support with internal conflicts in specific circumstances.
Friendly societies receiving government subventions are usually subject to auditing by the Audit Office of Guyana.
It remains to be seen how the public audit office would have engaged IDPADA-G as a private company receiving government funding. The funding amounted to approximately $468 million over a period of 2018 to 2022.
IDPADA-G has been facing questions about its transparency and accountability, since last week when Vice-President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, called on the organisation to explain how Afro-Guyanese have benefitted from the $468.438 million that it has received from the government.
Created in 2018, the IDPADA-G, in the national budget, through the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, received $68.438 million in 2018 and $100 million in each successive year, including the 2020, 2021 and 2022 budgets under the PPP/C Government.
IDAPA-G was created as the local coordinating mechanism for activities under the United Nations resolution dedicating a decade (2015 – 2024) to addressing the challenges confronting people of African Descent globally.
The organisation is registered as a private limited liability company, with the principals including Vincent Alexander and Dr. Norman T. Ng-A-Qui.
The organisation consists of the General Assembly, a Co-ordinating Council, a Secretariat and Sub-committees, and is expected to promote economic advancement and empowerment of Afro-Guyanese.
Dr. Jagdeo raised questions about the organisation as he addressed accusations of discrimination of Afro-Guyanese under the PPP/C, by several of the principals of IDPADA-G, who are listed as speakers at an upcoming event to be held by the Cuffy 250 Committee titled “Resisting the emerging apartheid state”.
On Monday the organisation held a press conference; however it failed to fully address how the organisation utilised the close to half a billion dollars in government funding over the five-year period.
During the press conference, members of the organisation confirmed that a large portion of the organisation’s budget goes to overhead expenses, with $42 million covering just the staff expenses in 2020.
In addition to this, in 2020 the organisation’s spending included conference expenses, $4.5 million, travelling and transportation $2.8 million, advertisement $2 million, office material and expenses $9 million, building rental and utilities $5 million.
Alexander confirmed that IDPADA-G previously rented a building on Regent Street, owned by Charles Corbin, who serves alongside Alexander as opposition-nominated Commissioners on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
IDPADA-G is now currently housed at a building on North Road that is the former home of former President, Desmond Hoyte.
In other expenses noted during Monday’s press conference, IDPADA-G’s Chief Executive Officer, Olive Sampson, stated that for capacity-building exercises the organisation expended $22,386,555 in 2018; $44,324,848 in 2019; and $11,762,671 in 2020.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the scholarships and tuition assistance for secondary and tertiary levels, the organisation expended $1,879,036 in 2018; $2,083,751 in 2019; and $1,846,140 in 2020.
However, the figures still leave questions on who exactly benefitted from the programmes carried out. When asked for the exact number of persons that those activities reached, Alexander said those statistics were with the IDPADA-G secretariat.
Further asked about the IDPADA-G making its audited statements public, Alexander noted that while the company will not publish its report, persons can go to the organisation and request a copy of the statement to read.
“It is a public document because we have to submit them to the registrar of companies. We would allow persons to see it in office. I don’t know if the registry of companies makes copies of it,” Alexander said.