– police probe ongoing
The stolen Guyana Power & Light (GPL) transformer that was removed from the Regent Multiplex Mall on Sunday was one of several the company had on standby to assist in the operation of the pumps during the flooding the country is now experiencing, GPL General Manager Bharrat Dindyal said yesterday.
Dindyal confirmed yesterday that the transformer, which was removed from the mall located at the corner of Wellington and Regent streets, belongs to GPL. The mall was opened in December.
According to Dindyal, the transformer was part of a “contingency plan” which was in place to assist in operating the many pumps that are needed during flooding in Guyana. He recalled that during the 2005 Great Flood, there were situations where transformers were needed and the company had none in stock. To ensure that this did not occur again, the company purchased the transformers and had them on standby. “We had them sitting there for a specific purpose,” Dindyal said. He gave the example of the company having to provide a transformer to help operate the Victoria, East Coast Demerara pump.
Meanwhile, the police yesterday said that they are still conducting investigations into the matter and there was no word on when charges were going to be laid against those found culpable. A senior police source on Sunday had said that the police had launched an investigation into the discovery and that the owner of the mall was among four persons questioned. “…persons would be charged, we are conducting the investigation and it has been confirmed that the transformer belongs to GPL,” the police source had said.
Stabroek News had visited the mall on Sunday and observed that a large hole had been gouged in one of the concrete walls so that the transformer could be removed; workmen were preparing to move it. GPL employees were waiting with a vehicle to retrieve the transformer, while a mason was on hand to reseal the wall.
A visit to the mall yesterday revealed that it was being powered by a generator and it was business as usual with all the stores open.
On Sunday, when the owner of the mall, Ganesh Ramlall, called this newspaper after several attempts were made to contact him on his cell number, he denied that a stolen transformer had been purchased. He further said “if anything end up in the Stabroek New you all guh know…” When asked why the transformer had to be removed from the mall he said that it had to be taken to Sophia to be tested.
According to Dindyal, the transformer was one of the five that were discovered missing from the company’s Sophia location some time late last year. He said GPL had done an audit in October last year and all of the transformers were intact. However, some time after that, a city business man took three transformers to the company for them to be tested. These transformers had been sprayed over and the GPL employees doing the testing were suspicious. On checking, they discovered that the transformers belonged to GPL.
He said the transformers were seized and the matter was reported to the police. From all indications no one has been charged in that matter as the police are still investigating.
Dindyal said following that discovery the company decided to do another audit and discovered that two heavy-duty transformers were also missing. He said the three that were taken to the company to be tested were three small ones, but the one that was found at the mall and the other one that is still missing are the heavy duty ones.
Dindyal would not say how GPL received the tip about the transformer at the mall, as he said such information should not be made public.
Asked what happens when someone is opening a new business, Dindyal said the normal procedure sees the customer approaching GPL and seeking its service. GPL will then inspect the building and inform the customer about what is needed. If the power company has the transformer in stock, it would be sold to the customer. If not, the customer is given the specifications of the transformer and would be required to purchase it from another source. In the case of the mall, its owner would have been told that GPL could not supply the requisite transformer, not because it did not have any in stock, but because those in stock were to be used during the flood if needed.
Dindyal said there would have been some complicity with GPL employees, as heavy-duty machines and trucks would have had to be used to remove the transformers; the trucks would have had to drive through the gates that are guarded by the city police. When questioned on whether anyone had been fired following the discovery, Dindyal said GPL was awaiting the end of the police investigation. He said he hoped whatever action was taken by the police in the matter would send a “very strong message” to those involved in such activities.
“We are dealing with a society that has a very dark side to it, corruption has touched every facet of society,” Dindyal commented yesterday.
Last February, GPL had said that three new transformers were vandalized and that intelligence had resulted in ten others being found at a Middle Road, La Penitence scrap dealer which resulted in several arrests. Others were also said to be missing.
In a press release, the company had said it continued to be alarmed at the theft of its T&D equipment and in the past month it has noted that three transformers in the Kingston area that served the Government Food and Drug/Analyst Department were illegally de-energised and vandalized. The company had said only bits of metal remained of the transformers as thieves had carted off the shell, core and windings.
The company had said that it took as long as 60 weeks to receive replacement transformers from manufacturers. It had said too the “costs for replacing these transformers are astronomical, and continue to place a heavy burden on the company’s finances.”
A few days later the company had fingered a gang that it said was linked to the theft of transformers and other metal-based materials from its Sophia depot.
“We have discovered the whole operation. We have identified the group and we know who the individuals are. They are on the run from the police and some of them have actually abandoned their homes at Sophia,” Dindyal had said at the time.