By Kiana Wilburg
Prior to the findings of a damning forensic audit report, neither the media nor the public was aware of where NICIL collected monies from to invest in the construction of the controversial Marriott Hotel.
The said report revealed that NICIL collected some $1.7B from the Guyana Water Authority, the Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB).
Yesterday Brassington was asked about the absence of such an explanation prior to yesterday’s press conference. NICIL’s Chief Executive Officer, Winston Brassington said, “NICIL doesn’t have to explain where it got its monies from for the Marriott Hotel.”
The press conference was held at NICIL’s Kingston office. His press briefing came just one day before Cabinet was expected to discuss the findings of the NICIL report. The said report also recommends that the government pursue criminal charges based on the extent of financial lawlessness found within NICIL.
In his defense, Brassington claimed that the forensic audit report was nothing but “opinions”. He said that there was no evidence to support the accusations being leveled against him in the report by Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran.
He then circulated a press release which highlighted most of the newspaper articles carried by the private media on the forensic report.
Reading from the said statement, Brassington noted that one of headlines by Kaieteur News, “Construction of Marriott Hotel…Brassington hid US$5m in a secret account” distorts the truth. He said the report does not specifically say that the account was a “secret” or “private” account.
However, this publication made it known to Brassington that the headline was indeed accurate based on interviews conducted.
He was then cornered twice to explain why the money collected, particularly the US$5m from GNCB, was not revealed to the public before.
“We have been saying very clearly that the monies were received from GNBC into NICIL. And the monies were intended for the use of the hotel. Now it was well known that NICIL was funding most of the money going into the project other than Republic Bank and what was coming from the private investor.
“It was known that NICIL was funding the hotel from monies it had. But the way your newspaper puts it is as if we hid this money in a secret account,” said Brassington.
He continued, “Our accounts show that this money was received and went into our regular account where all of our deposits are made and it has been part of our liabilities. When it was returned to the bank this year it was removed from being a liability. So nothing was hidden. It is fully known to the NICIL Board and the auditor when they looked at NICIL and that’s it. It didn’t go over to AHI as yet because it was there in the event that the Republic Bank financing didn’t go through…NICIL gets its monies from many different sources.”
Even with that explanation, Brassington failed to say why the US$5M from GNCB was not revealed to the media. In addition to this, Kaieteur News asked him to explain why this money was collected, not spent and remained sitting in NICIL’s accounts for two years.
He was also asked to explain why he did not use the money for the hotel which would have resulted in NICIL securing US$10M loan instead of US$15M from Republic Bank. The reduction in the loan taken would have reduced the interest that it would have been required to pay at present.
He said, “We always said that whatever money is needed for the project that wasn’t coming from the private investors or the Republic Bank financing would be invested by NICIL. NICIL doesn’t have to explain where it got its monies from. We get monies from many different sources…”