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HDC probe into political kickbacks
The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) is currently investigating whether millions of taxpayers’ dollars were used to pay off political debts under the former administration.
The Sunday Guardian received a list of some 24 names which include media personnel and a number of United National Congress (UNC) activists now before the HDC board under suspicion of receiving state houses outside the normal qualification process. The list contains the names of people allocated state houses over the past five years, some which they claim have no documentation, several on a rent to own, and even one upscale penthouse fully paid off within the past three years.
The Sunday Guardian has learned that the gated Fidelis Heights housing compound has been a popular allocation spot and now houses as many as 17 people with close links to the former administration. These were allocated homes within the last five years. Insiders close to the HDC board have revealed that the investigations seem to be centered on the role of suspended managing director Jearlean John.
In December, John and seven other high-level executives were suspended by the newly installed HDC board led by Newman George. The board suspended the eight employees pending the outcome of an independent audit into the HDC’s operations under John’s watch. That audit is expected to conclude in February.
John had contended then that the suspension was nothing more than a political conspiracy designed to remove her from the HDC because even though she was initially hired by the former People’s National Movement (PNM) in 2009, one year later when the Government changed, the incoming United National Congress (UNC) kept her in charge of the HDC.
The Sunday Guardian was informed that the internal audit is going back only five years.
The Sunday Guardian has learned that when John took over at the HDC back in 2009, she implemented a system that actually removed her and her office from the process of selection and allocation.
Under John’s watch, the selection and allocation could only be authorised by the Minister of Housing.
Under the former administration, former minister of housing Dr Roodal Moonilal ceded that responsibility and allowed his chairman, Rabindra Moonan, to authorise the allocation of houses.
The Sunday Guardian was informed that the HDC board is now questioning whether John was involved in the housing handouts or complicit in the People’s Partnership’s move to give houses to political loyalists.
Those loyalists also held prime positions under the former administration, including seats on state boards and hefty URP and Cepep contracts and now boast houses in Edinburgh 500 development.
But one HDC insider who has remained at the organisation despite the change in governments has said that the HDC was often used to repay political support over the years.
That HDC insider has questioned the most recent HDC handover ceremony in which two key PNM activists were allocated houses “in record time.”
“In less than a month, people sign up and get houses,” she said.
The insider named one senior executive in the PNM’s women’s league and one man who participated in the PNM internal elections and now serves as a member of the PNM political team.
Minister can allocate 40 per cent of state houses
Former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal has said that a sitting minister of housing can only make “limited recommendations” for the allocation of houses. But according to HDC policy, that minister can allocate up to 40 per cent of the available state houses; the remaining 60 per cent is determined by the Ministry of Housing and that compiled list is then sent to the HDC for allocation. The selection process is strictly a ministerial right.
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