Ties to be cut with stone scam official -Jagdeo

Stabroek News
June 4, 2001

President Bharrat Jagdeo says that the government will be severing ties with the senior official of the Ministry of Public Works who was implicated in the stone import scam by virtue of his office.

At a media briefing at the Office of the President on Friday, the President indicated that the government "would be disengaging the services" of this official and that others whose services were to have been disengaged had already been dealt with. The head of the Project Execution Unit of that ministry, who was also implicated in the investigation, was not retained after his contract expired in 1999.

A recommendation had also been made that no contracts in the future should go to Dipcon. However, Jagdeo indicated that he could not blacklist the road construction firm if the multilateral agency financing the projects did not agree to this. He said that he would have preferred if the police could have provided supporting evidence, so the perpetrators of the acts suspected could have been taken to court.

The police report on the stone investigation conducted by Auditor General, Anand Goolsarran, advised the government -- based on the recommendation of the Director of Public Prosecutions' Office -- that Dipcon should not get contracts in the future. It also recommended that ties with the senior official of the ministry, who was retained as a consultant, should be severed.

The report further called on the government to upgrade the laws as they related to computer fraud being perpetrated and to enhance the police investigating capacity in these regards.

The investigation into the stone scam took place in 1998 when local suppliers complained that an artificial shortage was being created to support the importation of stone in Guyana.

After reports of manipulation of invoices surfaced, Works Minister Anthony Xavier called in Goolsarran to mount an investigation.

The head of the project execution unit in the ministry had tried to bore holes in Goolsarran's report but in his final report, Goolsarran confirmed his findings and dismissed the claims by the PEU. The PEU head's contract was subsequently not renewed.

The police report on the issue was forwarded to the government in November 2000, but up to March when this newspaper got hold of the findings and asked the government about it, it had not been made public. Then, Jagdeo had indicated that after the elections Cabinet would deal with the recommendations.

The report has still not been released to the public.