August 30, 2016 By
August 30, 2016 By
10% proposed salary increase
Despite being equally guilty of offering insignificant salary increases to public servants, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has expressed disappointment in the 10 per cent ‘final offer’ proposed by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government.
PPP General Secretary Clement Rohee noted that the 10 per cent increase was a betrayal of the Public Service and was not reflective of the 20 per cent increases promised by the coalition members on the campaign trail.
He also reasoned that in comparison to the exorbitant 50 per cent increase Government awarded itself shortly after assumption to office, the 10 per cent increase was unacceptable.
Rohee also justified the previous Administration offering small increases, noting that there were other benefits available to the public
service which compensated for the minor raises.
During a news conference on Monday, the PPP General Secretary said the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) would most likely accept the final offer of 10 per cent and this would be “tantamount to another betrayal of the workers’ interest”.
He demanded to know the total cost of the one to 10 per cent increase having regard to the public boast by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who, at the 2016 May Day Rally, declared that Government had set aside $43.8 billion and $6.63 billion for increased benefits and allowances in the 2016 Budget, for public servants.
Additionally, Rohee believes that the entire salary increase negotiation between the Government and the GPSU was a sordid situation and he called on the latter to come clean.
“The GPSU must come clean and in the interest of transparency and accountability, explain to its members, the true state of affairs in respect to the outcome of the negotiations and how the “final offer” was arrived at,” he expressed.
Moreover, Rohee reminded that Nagamootoo had also promised in his 2016 May Day address to workers, incentives, scholarships, land, housing and recreation for public servants, who, he said, “must be treated as human beings”. Rohee noted that “observers have queried whether the one to ten per cent increase is adequate for a human being in the Public Service”.
When prompted, Rohee justified the smaller increases which the PPP administration offered during its tenure.
“You must recall (that) the increases offered by the PPP Administration (were) together with a whole host of other concessions that were granted: duty-free concessions for motor vehicles, land, house lots and things like that, easy loans, the Because We Care programme. In other words, there were a whole set of other concessions that were granted to workers in order to cushion whatever (they) would get,” he explained.
According to Rohee, the entire undertaking of wage and salary negotiations under the current Administration is “clearly another manifestation of meat for the boys, bones for the workers”.
The GPSU has agreed to consider the Government’s final offer of a 10 per cent increase for persons earning below $99,000 per month, with the rate incrementally decreasing to a one per cent increase for those earning in excess of $1 million.
The initial proposal of the GPSU was for a 40 per cent across-the-board increase for public servants but this was subsequently adjusted to 25 per cent. The Union had also demanded that allowances be included in the negotiations.
Government responded by proposing that persons earning less than $100,000 be paid a 5.5 per cent increase, while persons earning above $1 million would only get a one per cent increase. The proposed 5.5 per cent offer was later increased to six per cent by Government, but this too was rejected by the Union.
Then, Government reconsidered its position and the final offer was presented. (Devina Samaroo)
August 30, 2016 By
− 1 nabbed
Moments after committing a robbery on the R Ramlogan General Store, Enmore, East Coast Demerara, on Monday one man was apprehended while five others are on the run. The robbery reportedly occurred at about 17:00h by a group of men who were all armed with handguns
Reports are after committing the robbery the armed men boarded a pink Toyota Raum bearing registration PNN 334 and left the scene.
However, as the vehicle drove off, the Police gave chase but came under fire. In retaliation, the Police discharge several rounds at vehicle, one of which shattered the back windscreen.
The shootout reportedly started at Enmore and ended in Bare Root Village, ECD, which led to the arrest of one of the bandits. The others reportedly abandoned the car and ran into the bushy area in the backdam.
An unlicensed firearm was reportedly found in the possession of the man apprehended. He was taken into custody and is being grilled about the names of his accomplices. The car was impounded at the Cove and John Police Station.
Acting Crime Chief, Hugh Jessemy when contacted told Guyana Times that the men had committed a robbery in the area and with quick response by the Police one was arrested. While he did not have much information about the robbery, he noted that a team of investigators were up to late Monday evening at the store taking statements from the victims.
Attempts to contact the Ramlogams proved futile.
Meanwhile Guyana Times understands that this is not the first time the store has been robbed by armed men. One resident disclosed that only a few months ago gunmen stormed the establishment and carted off an undisclosed sum of money and other items. Police in C Division have launched a manhunt for the escaped bandits.
August 30, 2016 By
…says he had opportunities to suggest changes
ublic Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Irfaan Ali has described as “distasteful and disrespectful” the recent utterances of Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan over the non-appointment of Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram and Auditor General Anand Goolsarran as members of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).
Ramjattan is quoted in another section of the media as saying that he was praying for the quick establishment of the PPC so that “Cabinet no longer makes decisions on contracts”. In the very article, he also lamented the absence of “great people like chartered accountants Chris Ram and Anand Goolsarran who did not make it to become Commissioners”. He said while the names were submitted, the Opposition did not want scrutiny. “They didn’t want them,” he is quoted as saying.
But Ali, an Opposition MP, took Ramjattan to task, responding that he was only seeking to confuse the public and achieve selfish motives.
“The comments by Ramjattan are distasteful and disrespectful to the Chairman and members of the PAC. If Ramjattan has to apologise for any comments or commitment he has to give to anyone to be part of the Public Procurement Commission, he should not use the PAC to achieve his objective,” Ali told Guyana Times on Monday.
He said it was public knowledge that when the motion was taken to the National Assembly, every member of the PPC was selected unanimously.
“It was grossly disrespectful and improper and unethical for Ramjattan to suggest otherwise. The committee worked tirelessly through many Parliament sessions to come with a consensus position on this matter. It was the exceptional work of the PAC that allowed us to bring a unanimous decision on this matter to the National
Assembly,” Ali told this publication.
Further, Ali said, if Ramjattan had any objection at the time the motion was taken to the National Assembly, he had adequate opportunities to stand and suggest changes or amendments he wanted to make. “But he stood and applauded the consensus. So to try to confuse the public using the name of the PAC, speaks volume of his character and the level to which he would go to achieve selfish motives,” Ali said.
Meanwhile, commenting on Ramjattan’s statement too, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall said the comments illustrated very vividly that the Minister was yet to realise that he was in the Government, or he was powerless in the Government, or maybe both.
“It is the APNU/AFC that promised the establishment of the Procurement Commission within 100 days of taking office. Over 450 days after, there is no Procurement Commission in place, although they enjoy a majority in both the National Assembly and in the Public Accounts Committee. Therefore, who is Mr Ramjattan “urging”? He is in Government. Is he urging himself? Or is it internally, his voice has no weight?” he asked.
He said Ramjattan’s blaming the Opposition for the non-appointment of “great people” like Ram and Goolsarran was equally preposterous.
“The Government controls the majority in the Public Accounts Committee. The Government has the power to appoint three persons to the Commission and the Opposition the power to appoint two. Therefore, if the Government really wanted to appoint those two “great people”, there is nothing that the Opposition could have done to stymie these appointments. It is Mr Ramjattan’s own Government that rejected them. Again, I have to wonder whether anyone takes Ramjattan seriously in APNU. If these were his candidates, why were they both rejected?”
He said the truth of the matter was that even without the Procurement Commission, Cabinet could, if it wanted to, voluntarily give up its role in relation to no-objections to contracts.
“Additionally, this Government has persistently refused to comply with the Procurement Act and has been gifting hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to friends and cronies; for example, the Specialty Hospital, D’Urban Park and hundreds of millions worth of contracts for the cleaning of Georgetown by Central Government. None of these contracts were granted with any regard to the Procurement Act,” the former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister said.
Nandlall said this had nothing to do with the PPC, but was all about “a Government steeped in unaccountability, lack of transparency and corruption”.
“So Mr Ramjattan can stop “hoping and praying” and start convincing his Government to comply with the Procurement Act and stop gifting contracts to its friends. If not, the Procurement Commission would become another bureaucratic burden upon the backs of Guyanese taxpayers,” he declared.
August 29, 2016 By
The delegates of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) have re-elected embattled Public Health Minister Dr George Norton as one of the two vice chairpersons of the party.
Dr Norton secured the position when the party delegates voted for its leadership in the Central Executive Committee on Sunday.
The minister has in recent days been taking flack for government over a deal it inked with Larry Singh’s Linden Holding Inc to pay $12.5 million monthly for a Sussex Street property to store government’s drugs and medical supplies.
Dr Norton secured 227 votes. Colleague Minister, Volda Lawrence, was also re-elected as the PNCR’s other vice chairperson.
Attorney James Bond, who had campaigned for the position on the platform of getting youths in the leadership of the party managed to
secure 148 votes.
Clement Corlette, another of the challengers for the vice chairman position only managed to muster eight votes.
Party Leader Brigadier David Granger was returned unopposed as was Party Chairman Basil Williams.
The PNCR over the weekend held its 19th Biennial Congress at its Headquarters at Congress Place Sophia, Georgetown, which culminated with the elections of the party’s leadership.
The Congress this year boasted participation of 625 delegates and 275 observers from 140 groups.
During the first session which was chaired by Vice Chairman Dr George Norton, a moment of silence was observed in remembrance of party members who died over the last biennium.
The General Secretary’s Report was delivered by Oscar Clarke who informed Congress on the state of the PNCR, the work of the Party’s Secretariat and the major activities during the review period.
Addressing the signing of the Cummingsburg Accord which occurred on 14 February 2015 between the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), the General Secretary said “our decision was a correct one and indeed is the correct one for the future of our Party and….. In-spite of our differences our coalition administration has begun to work together to solve the myriad problems which we inherited…”
General Secretary Clarke also informed Congress about plans for the 60th anniversary of the PNCR on 5 October 2017. He declared that a Special Congress will be the centre-piece of the celebrations along with other activities at the central and regional levels.
The 19th Biennial Congress also approved a motion for the establishment of a resource centre for the preservation of works by former and future leaders of the PNCR.
August 29, 2016 By
… “a shamelessly clear corrupt act” – Dr Ramsammy
As the single-sourcing of a makeshift Pharmaceutical Bond on Sussex Street, Charlestown, Georgetown, continued to be mired in allegations of corruption and cronyism by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, calls are piling on the David Granger Administration to scrap the contract and go to public tender in keeping with the country’s public procurement laws.
Senior People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) figure, Attorney James Bond is among the most recent voices of reasoning that wants the deal to be scrapped.
Bond whose PNC/R is the largest partner in the governing coalition, told Guyana Times during a recent interview that the deal was a bad one, and should be abandoned, and a more transparent process should be undertaken.
“In my own estimation, indeed the contract should go to tendering. Other bonds may exist and you could have a better deal. I read an article by Ralph Ramkarran, Senior Counsel, and he put it in terms of measurement, square feet, is that the NEW GPC bond would have been far less than this bond now, so if you want to save government some money, if this going to be a long-term arrangement, I think you should go and see if you could get a better deal,” Bond remarked.
Minister of Public Health, Dr George Norton, who is embroiled in the controversy and faces the possibility of being hauled before Parliament’s Committee of Privileges for misleading the House, is also a senior member of the PNC/R.
Harvard University Professor Dr Leslie Ramsammy also took a swing at those government ministers who offered preposterous excuses in attempting to justify the wrongdoings of the APNU/AFC administration.
Insult to intelligence
Dr Ramsammy, former Minister of Health, noted that the excuses proffered to legitimise what he described as “a shamelessly clear, corrupt act, is not only pathetic, but an insult to the intelligence of the Guyanese public.”
“Justifying blatant corruption by pleading ‘it is human to err’ is the most reprehensible explanation and excuse ever given for raping the national treasury in Guyana or anywhere else,” Ramsammy noted in a statement to the Guyana Times.
He rationalised that to rent a house located on Sussex Street and owned by Linden Holding Inc as a medical warehouse for an exceedingly exorbitant price, without any public tendering, especially when there are better available options for a drugs bond, is far from a mere mistake.
“The tortured attempts to justify this reprehensible contract reveal an ugly arrogance that is typical of dictatorship, arrogance that has disdain for the citizens, that is shameless and which believes that the government is untouchable,” he stressed.
Dr Ramsammy noted that most Guyanese, even diehard supporters of the government are completely convinced that the entire undertaking is a corrupt deal spearheaded by other members of the Cabinet whose instructions Dr Norton presumably acted upon.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran also ruled as unacceptable the excuses provided by government for the shady deal.
“These excuses to justify continuing with a horrendously bad deal makes it difficult to dispel the notion that the Government is playing fast and loose with taxpayers’ moneys…” he expressed in his weekly blog ‘The Conversation Tree’.
Moreover, Dr Ramsammy pointed out that in addition to the internationally certified warehouse owned by NEW GPC, government could have used its own warehouse in Diamond, East Bank Demerara.
“What makes this deal even more preposterous is that the Ministry of Public Health owns an international standard warehouse at Diamond and it is presently less than 50 per cent occupied. This government-owned facility meets all international standards for medical warehousing, including PAHO/WHO standards,” he registered.
“Why would they spend so much money on a facility that was not needed because they do own a real warehouse which is not optimally used?” Dr Ramsammy queried.
The Minister of Public Health did inform Parliament that there was an urgent need for the space because there were supplies at the wharf awaiting possession by the Ministry.
“But how could renting a house which was not ready to store any medicine or anything be the solution? Ramsammy asked, adding that, “in fact, the house is still not ready and the Ministry has paid more than $50 million already upfront.”
This argument was also outlined by Ramkarran who posited that the justifications for not using that bond makes absolutely little to no sense at all:
“The Cabinet sub-committee has justified this grossly uncompetitive contract on the ground that a fire can occur and traffic is heavy at certain times on the East Bank. Well, a fire can also occur at the bond owned by Linden Holding. What happens then? The fire hazard is a potential danger that all owners of buildings have to guard against by deploying known fire prevention mechanisms, not having alternate structures, just in case.”
Dr Ramsammy also asserted that the annual rental cost for the house will exceed what was budgeted for medicines and medical supplies for at least six regions.
“It is more than what they intended to spend on medical supplies in Regions 1, 2, 7, 8, 9 and 10,” he highlighted.
He demanded to know the catalyst that drove the government to spend so much money to rent a house when that same money could have been used to improve supplies to all health centres and hospitals across the country.
He highlighted that in addition to paying for the $12.5 million monthly rent for the house, government will be paying VAT of $2 million as well as maintaining the air conditioning system, electricity, water and security.
“Overall, therefore, the cost would amount to about $200 million per year or $600 million over three years,” he calculated.
Further, Dr Ramsammy noted that since there was no tender or advertising, then how did the company become aware of the government’s apparent urgent need for a building for warehouse?
He also questioned that since government insists the building is internationally certified then why is it still being modified to serve as a warehouse.
“It is intentionally a sweetheart deal,” he concluded.
In this regard, the former Minister is calling for the revocation of the contract.
He posited too that he would also call for the Public Health Minister to resign but it would be unfair.
“It seems unfair to punish one man for the collective misdeeds of the approximately 30 Cabinet members, particularly since we all know that Minister Norton followed instructions and he is the fall guy,” he stated.
Dr Ramsammy also called on all of Guyana to speak out against this blatant act of corruption.
Already political commentator Dr Henry Jeffery, Economist Ramon Gaskin, Transparency advocate Christopher Ram and former Auditor General Anand Goolsarran have called for the deal to be scrapped and for there to be an open public tendering process.
August 29, 2016 By
– gunman escapes with $2M
A gunman on Sunday morning snatched over $2 million from a Berbice businessman as he was about to make a deposit at a commercial bank in Rose Hall Town, sources say.
Reports are that the businessman, Rakesh Mangalee of Albion, Corentyne, Berbice, was about to use the safety deposit box at Republic Bank when the gunman pounced on him.
Guyana Times was told that the businessman, a Berbice-based distributor, had just exited his car when the gunman came up and demanded that he hand over the bag containing the cash.
The man complied and the bandit snatched the bag and escaped on a motorcycle which was being ridden by an accomplice.
Police B (Berbice) Division Commander, Assistant Commissioner Ian Amsterdam confirmed the robbery had occurred, but did not divulge much detail as investigations are continuing.
He, however, noted that investigators were examining video footage from the Bank’s surveillance cameras, as well as other cameras from nearby businesses.
August 29, 2016 By
Guyana welcomed 86 new doctors who have successfully completed their training under the Guyana/Cuba Medical Scholarship Programme.
The graduation ceremony was held Saturday at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre and saw many Government officials in attendance, including: State Minister Joseph Harmon; Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton; Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings; and the Cuban Ambassador to Guyana, Julio César González Marchante.
Delivering the feature address, Minister Harmon urged the new doctors to commit themselves to selfless and dedicated service as they begin their careers.
He reminded that the Guyana/Cuba Medical Scholarship Programme serves as a testimony of the good relationship between the two countries.
“The Cuban Scholarship Programme continues to perhaps be the greatest area of assistance, with the Medical Scholarship Programme being the ‘flagship project’ of training and support,” the minister stated.
Additionally, Harmon acknowledged that the actual presence of Cuban doctors in Guyana, who provide medical assistance in Guyana, contribute to the overall healthcare delivery system.
The minister further highlighted that the hinterland areas are also benefitting, as there has been an increase in doctors assigned to Health Centres in those areas.
Moreover, Harmon assured that the friendship and solidarity between the two countries will continue to grow under the current administration.
Addressing the interns, Minister Norton urged the graduates to work hard to raise the quality of healthcare in Guyana.
He pledged the commitment of government in providing opportunities for them.
“The vision of the Ministry of Public Health is to make sure that all the people of Guyana are among the healthiest in the Caribbean and the Americas by the year 2020, and I know that together we can make it happen,” the minister told the graduates.
In his remarks, the Cuban Ambassador highlighted the importance of a solid relationship to be maintained between Guyana and Cuba.
He said that the Guyana/Cuba Medical Scholarship Programme is a reflection of the solidarity between the two countries: “Only in solidarity will we be able to face the significant challenges we have at present and to achieve a better world that is totally possible.”
Following the ceremony, the interns were required to take the Hippocratic Oath which was administered by Minister Cummings.
Over the last ten years, 700 doctors have graduated from the Guyana/Cuba Medical Scholarship Programme.
August 29, 2016 By
Eight months have gone by since 20 fathers who were employed under the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), have been struggling to regain employment so they could provide for their families.
For now, the men have been reluctantly dipping into their savings and searching for “small jobs” here and there in order to make ends meet.
After receiving the royal runaround from several related agencies and persons, including Communities Minister Ronald Bulkan, the men said that they took to their last resort – the media – to highlight their situation and call on the relevant authorities to right the injustice they believe was done to them.
The men were employed as labourers, tasked with the responsibility of cleaning up the drains and other areas in their community– Cove and John, East Coast Demerara (ECD).
They were divided into three groups, each being responsible for a specific area.
Given the magnitude of the work and the consistency to keep the community looking clean, each group leader would hire other persons from the community to aid in executing the cleaning exercises, thus providing other meaningful job opportunities for the locals.
Their last clean-up was in December 2015. In January, they had been informed that their services were no longer needed and that new clean-up groups were created.
The size of the groups has been reduced significantly and consists of members from other communities.
Apart from their claims of being “unjustly terminated”, the men are concerned about the quality of work being done by the new group.
During an interview with Guyana Times the men complained that the new group is doing substandard work and attributed this to the fact that the labourers are not residents of the community and therefore would not take pride in keeping it clean.
Reasons for dismissal
After realising that they were dismissed without reason, the men said they approached their “boss”, CDC Assistant Director Ernest Elliot. According to the men, he was unhelpful in providing direct answers on reasons for their termination.
In fact, they alleged that he was rude in his responses, which they said had an undertone of vengeance.
From their engagement with the CDC assistant director, the men strongly believe their termination was another act of political discrimination being practised by government.
“I think its cause we’re PPP people and that’s why. Because when we met with him, he kept saying that PPP went on sheer skulduggery all the time. He keep using that word, ‘skulduggery’. He musse use it about four or five times,” one of the men, Besham Persaud noted.
The men explained that they visited several other agencies, including the Communities Ministry where, after a number of trips, they finally got a brief meeting with the Minister.
However, they said the meeting was absolutely disappointing since he did not provide any definitive solution to their problems.
The men also wrote several letters to the Agriculture Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister, calling on them to intervene to ensure that they regain a legitimate means of earning a livelihood.
Persaud has been working as a labourer for the past 15 years, and therefore the dismissal comes as a huge blow for him and family.
“I struggling whe I deh. Sure I find a few jobs now and then, but with that one, I knew for sure I had it cause how often a small job does come up,” he expressed, noting that he has two children, ages 17 and 4.
Hardat Singh, another of the men, expressed similar concerns, noting that his family is currently draining their savings as he searches for another job while simultaneously trying to seek justice from what he describes as being “unjustifiably terminated.”
Roopdeo Samaroo also highlighted his financial struggles, noting that he has two young children who are returning to school today, even as he is financially strapped.
Shortly after the government assumed office, concerns have been raised time and again about the spate of dismissals of persons who were perceived to be affiliated with the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C).
August 28, 2016 By