GPL has to come clean and explain why they have failed to curb commercial theft over the last three years

Dear Editor,

President Donald Ramotar announced on June 14, that he has used his executive privilege to “instruct the board … to stand down on the proposed 26.7 per cent tariff increase…”  There is no news like good news.  However, the people must be aware that if it was not for the informed and firm position of the majority opposition, especially the AFC in exposing the truth, cane-cutters would have been called upon to pay some $3,000 per month more on their light bill.  However, this disclosure highlights the reality that the CEO and the Chairman seem not to be aware of what they are doing, and that the call for their immediate dismissal still has much merit.

If one is to look at the Directors’ Report from the 2006 Annual Report under the chairmanship of Ronald Ali one will find a commitment to a 2007-2011 programme.  This plan was formulated around two main activities, “sustainable loss reduction with a focus on non-technical losses (commercial theft) and preparation of the network for the Amaila Hydropower Plant.”

Ali commissioned a “Loss Assessment Report” and developed a “Strategic Loss Reduction Plan.”  The strategy was to identify and legally attack power thieves, replace defective meters with pre-paid meters and install a new billing system.  The outcome of these plans was to cut non-technical losses (commercial losses or theft) to 2.8 per cent by the end of 2011. It was ambitious and not easily achievable. A more realistic target might have been the world’s average of 4.6 per cent as outlined in a study on electricity theft in Jamaica.

Non-technical losses were not reduced to single digits and Ali was shifted off the board.  More troubling was the fact that a skilled and experienced power company leader, Mr Rabindranauth Singh left the system. In their place we got Messrs Brassington and Dindyal, and their legacy of unending 17 per cent commercial losses. Mind you I personally believe Mr Brassington does have executive skill sets.  Privatisation Unit/NICIL, Yes!  GPL, No!

The CEO is duty bound to all Guyanese to reduce commercial theft rather than try to pass on these inefficiencies to the people with increased rates. We can pay any manager ten times less to pass the burden to the Guyanese people.  Mr Dindyal’s salary package was set to achieve expected deliverables and he failed on all scores.

This company requires leaders on the board that have the political experience in addition to the practical talent to understand the wider socio-economic issues, along with the specific engineering and financial challenges.  I am convinced that the Deputy CEO of GPL, Mr Deonarine, a graduate from Warwick University with a specialized MBA in the energy industry seems to be more ‘logged on’ to the solution for GPL and so are local leaders like Yesu Persaud.  Why not match them up with people like Carlton Joao, a Director at Banks DIH who was the engineering lead and Project Manager on their power plant for a number of years, and Verlyn Klass, the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department and author of a 2010 Guyana Power Sector policy document?   I am sure there are many more Guyanese of this calibre including David Patterson from the AFC, who can ideally serve on the Board.

All this drivel about “market rate” from Mr Dindyal, is nothing but a cop-out to justify his salary package.  Executives in North America are paid market rates to deliver enhanced share value, not for making excuses. The crux of the matter remains; would a Yesu or Carlton or Verlyn or David get a chance to serve, since from all appearances what is more important to the Ramotar administration remains loyalty to friends.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds was quoted by GINA in 2003 as saying that the principal reason why the government did not renew the contract of the CDC/EBSI expatriate team was their “failure to reduce technical and commercial losses.”  The Irishmen got fired for not reducing the commercial losses but Team Brassington/Dindyal gets promoted for the same thing.

GPL needs help, but they have to come clean and explain why for the last three years they have failed to curb commercial theft. If the facts reveal themselves and further financial support is required, we the people can always facilitate a cash transfer from NICIL/Lotto funds.  After all NICIL was designed to manage government shareholding in state-owned entities.  Not a cent more from the Consolidated Fund! There are adequate resources in the government’s holding company NICIL to support GPL.

Yours faithfully,
Sasenarine Singh

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