The Sale of Joe Grant

By Royal S. Robinson, MBE

The Interim Administration continues to try to have its cake and eat it as well as to operate in a very non-transparent way. When you take into consideration the premise on which they took over the country from the duly elected local representatives, the actions so far have not been to show you how best to get the job done, but how best to carry on the process by which cronyism is the hallmark of the day and picking winners of your own choosing is the best was in which to do business.
The British Government, FOC, DFID, SIPT and the Civil Recovery team declared that the original sale of land by the TCI government to Platinum was a corrupt transaction and as such should be recovered and redound to the benefit of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Steps were taken through the Court system to have the land returned to the Crown and the court agreed that the land should be returned. No sooner than this exercise was completed (Platinum seem not to take an interest in appealing the court’s decision), there seems to be a concerted effort being made to now ensure that the Turks and Caicos Islands’ people do not benefit effective from the return of that land.
The first part of the deception and deceit started with the decision to sell the land to satisfy a mortgage that had been placed on the property by Temple as a result of Platinum borrowing some $2M and using the property as collateral. My understanding of the legal system is that if a leaf of the fig tree is tainted, then the whole tree is tainted. As it relates to this particular transaction, if it was corrupt for Platinum to obtain the land in the first instance, then any subsequent transaction had to be corrupt also.
So why was there a rush on behalf of the Interim Administration to satisfy Temple Mortgage? There can be one inference to be drawn and that is that someone in the Administration or very close to the Administration had something to be gained by the sale of the land by the government to satisfy the debt to Temple!
According to all previous pronouncements by the Interim Administration, all of the land that had been reacquired as a result of some fraudulent activity would be kept in the land bank for future generations to benefit from. So what is the real rush to dispose of this land at this time? Something smells fishy here.
Now in the proper scheme of things, if the Interim Administration had a real reason to dispose of the land for the benefit of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the first thing it should have done was to specifically say so. Following on from that, it should have issued a Request for Proposals. If as they like to claim they are operating in an open and transparent manner, and they want to get the best value for money, that is what would have happen. But they have decided to pick winners from “their side of the ledger”. What is that called? Is it Insider trading? Or is it nepotism? I thought those were the common faults and flaws identified by Sir Robin Auld as being part of the systemic weakness and corruption in the previous political administration that had to be rooted out. But like Courtney Missick likes to say, corruption has only changed its colour, from black to white!
Now let us look at the local firm that got to market and sell the 200 acres of land on Joe Grant Cay. It is Sotheby’s and its local affiliate is Connolly-Zahm! Is it just coincidental that one of the principals of Connolly-Zahm if Mrs. Josephine Connolly, the wife of Advisory Council member Joseph (Joe) Connolly? As Ernie Clarke likes to say “I have the documents”. I will definitely like to see the documents showing that there is no nexus at all!
The old Finance and Audit Ordinance and Financial Instructions, followed by the now brand new Public Finance Management Ordinance, all speak to a transparent process with respect to the procurement of services by government.
As I have indicated before, there should have been a tendering process set up and the firm with the best proposal selected to carry out the work. The worst case scenario would have been to short-list say six of the local real estate firm that have international connections and ask them to submit proposals, I could live with that. I would have thought that that would have given me some piece of mind that I would have been getting value for money.
What I still cannot fathom is how the governor fixed his mouth to call the initial land transaction of Joe Grant cay corrupt and it had to be returned to the people, but no sooner was that done, he is out there secretly trying to sell that asset. Something untoward must be afoot here. I just cannot for the life of me understand the amount of double standard that is being used by this Interim Administration, save to say that a concerted effort is being made dispose of everything of value that belong to us, in a manner that they feel and say that it is in our best interest so to do.
I have never seen so many thing done in my best interest, that am totally opposed to as is happening with these bumbling idiots at the helm. As time progresses, everyone is seeing that the Emperor has on no clothes and is operating in a clueless manner.
How the Interim Administration hopes to be able to get away with such blatant disregards for the rules that they say they came here specifically to enforce and demonstrate the ethics of doing things in the proper manner?
However, what they have and are demonstrating to us is that what we were doing was child’s play and they are certainly showing us how bad business should operate. That does not give us faith and comfort in these operators. That is why on the streets there is now total skepticism as to the real reason the intervention took place.
We must by now be in a position to determine for ourselves that what is currently being done to us is neither right nor fair! The reset button has now been pushed by the setting of the date for elections. We should all go out and get registered so that we can send a clear and unambiguous message to the Interim Administration that business as usual will not be the order of the day. Joe Grant Cay has not been sold as yet and it is not too late to restart the process on a proper footing.
There cannot be a rush as there is a surplus budget proposed, so the money from the sale is not critical to our financial position except that the Interim Administration is hell bent of getting from under the loan guarantee as quickly as possible and to hell with whatever adverse consequence to the Turks and Caicos Islands people!

published in Sun TCI

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