Guyana Gov’t fires State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) staff – Operations closed

All 42 members of staff have been fired.

Kaieteur News – Contending that from the inception the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) was not crafted with the best interest of the people in mind, Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, announced yesterday that a decision has been taken to close the operations of SARA.

In a statement released via his social media page, the AG noted that letters were dispatched yesterday terminating the employment of the staff of the agency.
Nandlall, in the release, noted that the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has always been heavily critical of the law governing SARA as well as the operations of the purported State agency.   

He explained that from the moment the SARA Bill became public, it evoked widespread criticism from the (PPP/C) political opposition, as well as many civil society organisations, such as the Guyana Bar Association, the Private Sector Commission and the labour movement.
Nandlall said the groups found that the Bill was too oppressive.

Attorney General: Anil Nandlall.

He explained that “… Sections had unlawful retroactive effect and that many of the provisions collided with the Constitution, including those Articles that protected the fundamental rights of citizens in relation to property and protection of the law.”
According to the AG, the Bill was heavily criticized by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) both in and out of Parliament.

“Within days of its assent, a comprehensive constitutional challenge was mounted against the State Assets Recovery Act No. 14 of 2017, by public commentator, Mr. Ramon Gaskin. The challenge impugned approximately 90 of the 107 Sections of the Act, as being unconstitutional and in flagrant violation of the separation of powers. The matter is pending before the Chief Justice, awaiting a decision,” Nandlall recalled in his statement.

He noted too that another case is still pending in court over the appointments of Dr. Clive Thomas and Aubrey Heath-Retemyer who appointed themselves Director and the Deputy Director of the agency, respectively.

According to the AG, those appointments were in complete disregard and violation of the aforementioned provisions.
To compound the issue further, Nandlall noted that High Court Justice Franklyn Holder ruled in the case brought against the Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry (GBTI) that SARA is not a corporate entity and cannot sue or be sued in that capacity.

Nandlall noted that the judge found that since the commencement of the Act, no director has ever been appointed by construction of the provisions of the Act.

He explained, “The Court ruled that only a director, a duly authorized officer, was empowered by Section 40 of the Act to institute proceedings of the nature sought to acquire the land from GBTI… The case was struck out.”

As a result, Nandlall held that every other action filed by SARA is bound to fail due to the defect identified by the Court.

In the meantime, the AG pointed out that the Agency has achieved nothing in five years but gobble up close to G$1 Billion in public funds in salaries, wages, rent and operational expenses.

As such, Nandlall stressed that the Government is making good on its promise to disband the agency and instead strengthen asset recovery components of the AMLCFT legislation.

According to him, the Government will endeavour to enact legislation utilizing the CARICOM model of State Asset Recovery, in respect of state assets acquired illegally in consonance with our laws and the Constitution.

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