The Board of Directors should not be blamed for the problems at GuySuCo

Dear Editor,
I’ve observed recently that a lot has been written about GuySuCo as result of the unfortunate  situation in which it has found itself, chief among them the Skeldon Factory debacle, in circumstances where the factory was intended to significantly reduce production costs. While it can be agreed that GuySuCo does have its fair share of challenges, the current board members should not be placed with their backs against the walls to defend actions they had no control over.

In fact, considering the challenges, it can be argued that the current board has been making and continues to make tremendous sacrifices to ensure that production costs are kept at a minimum. From reports, one can see that initiatives have been taken to reduce expenditure and improve transparency both internally and externally. A number of internal committees – the Audit and Central Tender Committees, for example – have been very active and, in fact, have identified discrepancies resulting in corrupt staff being dismissed and the implementation of procurement systems (updated manuals prepared and fully computerizing the department). These actions, it has been reported, have resulted in half a billion dollars in savings for the corporation; this is a significant action which needs some credit. Added to that Editor, in reviewing the available information, the board has also been working with the other factories which resulted in improved production.

However, lest we forget, I think the public needs to be aware of some of the issues which resulted in the present Skeldon factory situation. The government was constrained by a loan arrangement with an external financial institution, which required the bank to construct the factory in question (as lender). Added to that was the sad reality that the Exon bank had never constructed a factory of that scale. Having recognized this limitation though, an even more heartrending situation was the government’s employment of consultants – Booker-Tate – which obviously did an extremely poor job of supervising the project – the key to the problems being experienced today, from inferior materials quality to actual construction.

While the Board of Directors has changed since the factory was constructed, when one rationalizes the issue there would have been little that the then board could have done relative to oversight of the actual technical input of the factory’s construction.  As far as I know, board members are professionals in their own right with vast experience in various aspects of the corporate industry. While they tender their knowledge and skills to whatever industry they are managing, they are by no means, or should be, experts at factory construction, sugar production, etc, to use the current situation as an example. What happens in these situations are reviews and updates being provided to the board by the technical persons to guide decision-making. So, even if all the then directors were construction experts, I can see little being changed as Booker-Tate was considered ‘the’ experts; paid huge sums to supervise the factory construction and advise the board accordingly. The latter, sadly, was clearly not done.

Thus, Editor, the public should not use Skeldon alone as a benchmark to judge the performance of GuySuCo. While, I believe that the board can stand on its own in defending whatever actions it took and will take, it is important that the public understand the Skeldon situation and the fact that some of the problems would not be resolved overnight, so to speak, but would require our patience before they can be resolved.

From my observation, this board and management team are keen on keeping the public informed on the constraints being experienced, which is admirable, and the least the public can do is not to blame the current board but support their cost-cutting initiatives even as we await the successful operation of the Skeldon factory.
Yours faithfully,
Ron Paul