Only $1,000M was requested for GPL’s operations and the National Assembly approved that; the warning of a tariff increase is nothing but scare tactics

Dear Editor,

Now more than ever I lose hope and faith in our politicians whose words speak louder than their action. But then I see some dishonesty, chicanery or fabrication that upsets me and makes me take up my pen.

In today’s (April 23) Stabroek News Messrs Brassington and Bharat Dindyal, Chairman and CEO respectively of the mismanaged Guyana Power & Light Inc are threatening a 17% tariff increase because of the $5.2 billion cut by the National Assembly. The reasons they give are so dishonest that I cannot help but recall the feigned outrage by Messrs ‘Fuzzy’ Sattaur and Martin Goolsarran when the NCN subsidy was cut last year.

Mr Dindyal was reckless enough to accuse the parliamentary opposition of “a poor understanding of the company’s operations.”

In fact it is more than likely that it is because they not only understand but know that the GPL is among the most poorly operated and managed companies in the history of Guyana that the opposition is reluctant to put $11,255 million in the company in 2013, following the $6 billion in 2012 for which there has been no accounting to date.

Assuming as I do, that Messrs Dindyal and Brassington are not dishonest, then it is they who do not understand. Here is what the Minister of Finance said in the 2013 Budget Speech about the $11,250 million to GPL.

“Budget 2013 therefore provides operating and capital transfers to GPL totalling $5.8 billion to support that company in meeting its cash flow requirements. It is worthwhile to mention that, in addition to the $5.8 billion budgeted to be transferred to GPL in 2013, Government is also budgeting a further $5.4 billion to be provided to GPL to support key projects such as the upgrade of its transmission and distribution network, the loss reduction programme, and other activities required in anticipation of the AFHP.”

They so comingle money that they probably do not even realise that only $1,000 million was requested for GPL’s operations.

The National Assembly approved that sum in full. It is nothing but scare tactics for Mr Brassington to warn about a potential tariff increase following the cut of $5,800 million which, knowing our parliamentarians, will be restored sooner rather than later, as happened last year.

And let me reassure Mr Dindyal that Guyanese understand what is going on in GPL including:

1. That at December 31, 2010 the company had an accumulated deficit of $2,008 million and was indebted to the Government of Guyana for $9,035 million in long-term liabilities, $1,189 million in current liabilities and $402 million in taxes payable, making a total owing to the Government of $10,626 million. The company’s indebtedness would surely have increased in 2011 and 2012, in addition to the $7,500 million it received by way of budgetary allocations in those years.

2. That over the approximately six years of the Brassington-Dindyal partnership at the helm of GPL, line losses have remained stuck at around 32% when they should be no more that 15% -18%. In other words inappropriate policies and inept management at GPL are costing the country in the range of $5,469 million and $6,641 million per annum, based on 2010 turnover.

3. That GPL has failed to table its 2011 Annual Report in the National Assembly which was due by the middle of 2012. The National Assembly should have told the Prime Minister to go and bring the report before we entertain any request.

5. That the cost of fuel in 2013, which accounts for a significant part of annual expenditure, is projected to be less than in 2012.

6. That the company’s procurement is no less tainted than national procurement.

7. That the management is not only incompetent but also overpaid. In 2010, twenty-nine management staff were paid a total of $271 million plus perks. This works out at $9,400,000 per year per person. That would have gone up in the two years since.

8. That GPL does not have the power to increase rates but only the Public Utilities Commission and only after public hearings. Maybe Messrs Brassington and Dindyal should put their threat to the test and open themselves to examination.

Finally, the duo’s spuriously precise 17% tariff increase reminds me of my days in Grenada when Bernard Coard advised me, “Chris, don’t say around 50. Say 47 or 53. People will think you are being honest and accurate.”

Conditional on the granting of any transfers to GPL, the National Assembly should have demanded the firing of the entire Board of GPL and their replacement by competent individuals. Messrs Brassington and Dindyal may mistake the temerity of our politicians as stupidity of our people. We know and understand what is taking place. And it is not good.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Ram

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