We didn’t inherit a surplus – NHLDC General Manager

General Manager of the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation (NHLDC), Eustace Nisbett has disputed claims that his administration inherited a $20 million surplus when it took over the organization in 2006.

Nisbett was responding to media reports attributed to Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) leader Vance Amory that the party left $20 million in the corporation’s coffers when it lost power in the 2006 elections.

According to Nisbett the Corporation in fact had a loan balance of just over $50 million when the new board of directors took over in 2006. He said the loans consisted of two for US$10-million and US$5-million respectively, equating to EC$40.5-million, and two others of EC$9-million and EC$2-million. The first two were attained from the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC) and AIC of Trinidad and Tobago, and the others from the Social Security Board and the Nevis Cooperative Credit Union.

The NHLDC head said the US$10-million loan was secured to purchase some of the lands at Pinney’s Estate while the one for US$5-million was taken for infrastructural development at Jessup’s Estate, to build a top class restaurant at the Bath hot springs and to continue with the housing project after 2004. He said the loans from Social Security and the Credit Union were taken to advance the housing development.

Nisbett, who is also secretary of the NHLDC board of directors, said a condition of the US$10-million loan which was taken in 2004, was that proceeds from sale of the properties at Pinney’s Estate would be deposited in an escrow account at a local institution to service the principal balance of the loan. Nisbett said those monies are not funds that are owned by the corporation but by the lending agency in Trinidad and Tobago.

“So, in the event that those monies are what is being referred to then I must say someone has been misled in some way or the other.”

Nisbett continued: “The money being held in escrow did not belong to the corporation. It belongs to the UTC, and you cannot count someone else’s money as yours regardless of the relationship. If the money belonged to the corporation then the previous administration or this one would have been able to use it.”

The General Manager pointed out that the Bath hot spring plans are still to come to fruition while nothing has been done in the 95-acre development in the upper part of Jessup’s Estates. He also said the housing developments that should have commenced in 2004 did not materialize.

“The last housing project completed by the then directors would have been in 2003. So it is difficult to say where the 13 million 500 thousand EC dollars were spent. We have had challenges because there were no audited accounts for the Corporation since 2001.”

Nisbett said that two independent reviews were conducted of the corporation’s operations since 2006 but they failed to provide definite answers as to where the money was spent.

“I think one report suggested that between 2005 and 2006 that the corporation accumulated a deficit in access of EC$15-million. What that means is that there might have been some unaccounted expenditure that we have been unable to trace.”

Nisbett pointed out that in 2008 he travelled, along NHLDC Chairman Robelto Hector and Deputy Chairman Patrice Nisbett who is now Attorney General, to Trinidad where they successfully negotiated with UTC the release of transfers so that individuals could have titles to their properties.

According to Nisbett, a number of persons would have been purchasing lands in the Pinney’s Estate area, which includes Pinney’s Nugent’s Heights, Pinney’s Nugent’s Village and Pinney’s Commercial, but because there were some breaches by the then administration in the agreement with the UTC, the Trinidadians had decided not to sign the transfers since they would have had a mortgage on the said property.

“So, the representatives of the NHLDC negotiated and came to an agreement where UTC started signing the transfers and releasing that hold so that individuals here could have their titles to properties.”

The current board secured an EC$10-million from the Social Security Board for its projects and Nisbett said the lenders were confident that the Corporation would have been able to not only service the debts incurred earlier but any loan attained under the current administration.