‘Will SOCU be a fearless predator or toothless poodle in possible probe into Durban Park?’ – Jagdeo asks
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday expressed his desire to have a full-blown investigation led by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) into the controversial $1B Durban Park Project.
When asked by the News Room, Jagdeo said he may soon have to file a formal complaint to have the probe launched but he questioned whether SOCU will pursue the matter as a “fearless predator” or a “toothless poodle”.
“We may have to call in the police on that project. Let’s see if SOCU will be the fearless predator that they have become now or the toothless poodle,” he expressed.
Jagdeo said the probe would be justifiable since public funds were used for the project and there seems to be no accountability for those monies.
“The Auditor General can’t find the papers to audit the project, where did the papers go? And the players are still active in the government, the players are there! And somebody needs to ask them or call in the police because this is public funds,” the Opposition Leader said.
The PPP/C has a firm belief that SOCU is politically controlled to go after political opponents.
Some of the matters currently being investigated by SOCU are the Pradoville 2 Housing Scheme involving several former government officials including Jagdeo himself, the Commonwealth Law Books involving PPP Executive Member Anil Nandlall, and the alleged fraud at the Rice Development Board involving some PPP officials, among others.
Auditor General Deodat Sharma had revealed to media operatives that he is unable to locate financial records on the Durban Park Project.
The Auditor General Office had launched a special audit into the initiative amid concerns of corruption and mismanagement of the State’s resources.
Sharma explained that there are no records of transactions prior to the project being handed over to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI).
Before the project was handed over to the Ministry, it was being managed by a special purpose company.
A director of that company was the then Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine.
The Ministry took over the project after the company floundered in the lead up to 50th Independence anniversary celebrations. Some $400M was pumped into the project before the Ministry took over control.
However, the government still went to the Parliament for an additional $500 million to be paid out from the Consolidated Fund to a number of contractors and other persons owed varying amounts for works undertaken on the controversial project.
This money, however, was not enough to pay contractors and government said those who did not get their money can sue the special purpose company.
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson had told the National Assembly that a total of $27.7 million was received in the form of donations from private individuals and entities, while another $37 million came about ‘in kind’.
Since the Durban Park project has been completed, the special purpose company was dismantled. Sharma said he was informed that all information that was in the possession of the company was handed over to the MPI, however, there seems to be no record of these documents thus far.