Persons to be fired for malpractices at asphalt plant
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The state-owned asphalt plant located at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara.
The state-owned asphalt plant located at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara.

FEWER than a dozen persons are expected to be fired for their role in the overall mismanagement of the state-owned asphalt plant, Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill confirmed on Monday.

Speaking with reporters ahead of the third meeting of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Edghill asserted that “people will go home.” The minister declined to provide names or even give the specific number of persons who will be sent packing, but confirmed that it was fewer than a dozen.

“I can’t give exact numbers, but all the parties who played a role in facilitating what took place, should not be allowed to spread that cancer continuously, even under new management,” Edghill posited.
Minister Edghill was particularly hesitant to confirm whether the list of persons to be sent home would include Rawlston Adams, General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC). Adams, who has oversight for the plant, was fingered in one of the more startling findings of the investigations, having approved the purchase of an $897,000 wristband for himself on the occasion of International Men’s Day 2019. Edghill told reporters that he will make pronouncements on Adams’ fate, only after the two are able to meet.

“I have not been able to have an all-important meeting with the general manager, face to face. It would be improper; unethical for me to speak to the public about [the] matter when I have not had the opportunity of speaking to him yet,” Edghill said.

Questioned whether the meeting was one that was being avoided, considering that the findings were announced in December last year, Edghill responded in the negative. He further pointed to “scheduling” as being the chief hindrance to the engagement. “If I could get that opportunity today, all the disclosures will [be] made today,” the minister asserted.

Although not contained in the findings of the investigation, recent reports also implicate former Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson in a similar purchase, whereby the DHBC went ahead to purchase a wristband valued at more than $500,000. Patterson has since denied ever receiving the item.

Nonetheless, in addition to the exorbitant gift purchase, investigations into the asphalt plant also revealed that the entity had no credit policies, which opened doors for corrupt practices to prevail.

The investigations also highlighted the fact that in 2016, the plant had paid an advance payment of $9 million to a company which was only registered the following year. Minister Edghill had reasoned that perhaps the advance payment was startup capital for the shady company. In its final report, the investigative team recommended several measures that should be implemented in an effort to end malpractices at the asphalt plant.

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