By Rehana Ahamad
BEFORE any legal action is taken, the officers fingered in mismanagement of the state-owned asphalt plant are scheduled to appear before a Human Resource (HR) Committee to answer for a series of questionable occurrences at the facility.
The plant, which is a subsidiary of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC), was placed under the microscope following allegations of corruption highlighted in the local press in September 2020. A team of experts was assembled and an investigation commenced into the operations of the plant. The probe examined all dealings at the plant for the period 2013-2020. The investigation was wrapped up in December last, and the findings were submitted to Senior Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, on December 30.
That report was then forwarded to the Board of Directors of the DHBC, and after deliberations, it was decided that the board’s HR Committee would engage the officers who have been deemed culpable of wrongdoings at the plant.
“The board has found that particular operatives must be held accountable for the mismanagement and some of the breaches that took place, and in their deliberations, they (the board) needed to have a “face-off” interview with those persons,” Edghill told reporters on Friday.
He later confirmed to the Guyana Chronicle that the DHBC Manager Rawlston Adams would be included on the list of persons to be questioned, as he was at the centre of one of the more startling findings of the investigation.
According to the report, he approved the purchase of an $897,000 wristband for himself, as a gift from the company on International Men’s Day 2019. In the report, the investigative team facilitated responses from the DHBC on all of the findings. Responding to the concerns surrounding the very generous purchase, the company said that gift-giving was customary at the organisation, and that “Gifts were also given to all other men within the corporation.”
However, the gift purchases for all of the other men were valued at approximately only $10,000 each. The investigating team determined that due to the lack of an independent approval system, the purchases can be deemed as misuse of the plant funds for personal gain.
Chairman of the investigative team, Chartered Accountant Chateram Ramdihal had explained that for such an expensive purchase, permission ought to have been sought from the Board of Directors, or in the absence of a board, the subject minister should have had the final say.
In the report, the team recommended that gifts to employees of the corporation be done in accordance with generally accepted principles, and “at arm’s length.”
The probe found too that record-keeping and poor credit policies were not only costing the company millions in materials, but it had also created an avenue for mismanagement of the state’s resources, paving the way for gross corruption.
Nonetheless, Edghill said that based on the outcome of the HR meetings, the Board of Directors will determine suitable consequences for the culpable officers.
“The HR sub-committee of the board is to meet with them and interview them before formal action [is] to be taken. As far as I am aware, the chairman of the board is arranging for those interviews early next week,” Edghill said.
Edghill declined to comment on what some of the consequences are likely to be, and whether legal action is likely in any of the cases.
“To say anything before that (the HR meeting), would be premature,” the minister maintained.