Deonarine challenging Patterson’s authority to send him on leave

Former Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Administration) of the Guyana Power & Light (GPL), Aeshwar Deonarine, has filed a motion in the High Court in which he contends that Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, had no authority to send him on administrative leave.

On July 22 last year, Patterson sent Deonarine on leave after it was discovered that he had paid himself some $27 million of the power company’s money.

An investigation was subsequently launched by the police, after it was discovered that Deonarine managed to transfer the large sum into his account with the assistance of labour leader Carvil Duncan.

Aeshwar Deonarine
Aeshwar Deonarine

In his notice of motion, Deonarine is seeking an order or rule nisi of certiorari quashing the minister’s decision to have had him sent on administrative leave.

The applicant is contending that the minister’s decision which took immediate effect, is, among other things, excessive, lacks jurisdiction and has no legal effect; unless he can show cause as to why the order should not be made absolute.

Deonarine’s motion is premised on the ground that the power to discipline him was vested in the Chief Executive Officer or the Board of Directors of the GPL and/or the Remuneration and Human Resources Committee of the GPL—not Minister Patterson.

“There is no power in the Minister of Public Infrastructure Mr. David Patterson, to discipline the applicant or to send him on administrative leave,” Deonarine asserted through his attorney Murseline Bacchus.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers in its affidavit in response has advanced that

Minister Patterson had the authority to send Deornarine on administrative leave, having acted as a result of necessity.

The AG’s chambers further contends that Deonarine’s contract with the power company has now ended as a result of the flux of time as at the end of 2015.

The chambers of the AG is represented by attorneys Prithima Kissoon, Judy Stewart, Adrian Smith and Tracy Marks.

In an affidavit supporting his motion filed last October which was notarized in Canada, Deonarine says that he had been employed with the GPL from March 2003 to December 31, 2015 in various capacities, the last being that of Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Administration) at a salary in excess of $1.9M per month.

He said he received $1,920,450 per month.

The case will be called again on March 28 at 1pm in chambers for reports before Acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings, at the High Court in Georgetown.

Duncan, who was a director on GPL’s board and President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), was charged on Tuesday for stealing almost $1M which he paid himself and conspiring to steal over $28M from the GPL.

He was released on $1M bail after denying the charges in a city magistrate’s court, which also issued an arrest warrant for his co-accused Deonarine. When questioned about the whereabouts of Deonarine, the prosecutor informed the magistrate that he was not summoned but was informed by the Chief Inspector about the case.

It is alleged that Deonarine left Guyana on August 3, 2015 for Canada; and in the affidavit supporting his motion, he give his address as 144 Ecclestone Drive, Brampton, Ontario L6X 3P3, Canada.

Last July, Minister Patterson had said that because Deonarine and Duncan were signatories on the bank account they managed to make the transfers in April, May and June of last year and the transactions were discovered during the ongoing forensic audit of the power company.

Deonarine reportedly paid himself what he believed to be owed to him retroactively since he was not being paid the same salary as another senior manager of the company who is in charge of operations.

He had repeatedly applied to the board for the disparity to be rectified but was not successful.

Duncan, it is alleged, also paid himself retroactively for 48 months since the company’s board members had requested that their allowance be increased from $5,000 to $20,000 but no approval had been given.

The two reportedly paid themselves from the monies transferred from the PetroCaribe Fund to the power company by the previous People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) administration.

Corporate Governance Code

In his affidavit, Deonarine related how the question of retroactive payment arose after another manager Colin Welch was given a higher salary than him in contravention of the Corporate Governance Code which mandated fair and responsible remuneration. Welch is now controversially the acting CEO of GPL.

After anomalies persisted in the salaries, Deonarine averred that he tendered his resignation to GPL on December 3rd, 2013. Deonarine attested that there was then a series of meetings with the Chairman of the board, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister and he was assured that his “complaints would be addressed and sorted out”.

Relying on these assurances, Deonarine swore that he withdrew his resignation on January 15th, 2014 and on March 25th, 2014 he received a letter from board member Duncan stating that the GPL board had given its no objection to the aligning of the salaries. Deonarine said that a day later on March 26th he prepared the payroll as he usually does and it reflected the increase in his package.

While preparing the payroll for April 2014, Deonarine said that he was informed by the Chairman of the board, that he, the Chairman, either contacted or was contacting the Prime Minister seeking a “no objection” to the increase of Deonarine’s remuneration. Deonarine said he was then told by Duncan that he, Duncan was not in agreement with the Chairman and that the Prime Minister’s no-objection was unnecessary. Deonarine said that he then told Duncan that he might seek legal advice and then proceeded to prepare the payroll for that month based on the old remuneration. Deonarine said that he was told by Duncan that he would sort everything out and get back to him.

“Like everything else at Guyana Power and Light Incorporated, this matter took a long time to be resolved. The Chief Executive Officer’s contract was not formally renewed until 23 months after it expired in December, 2011. In my case, it took almost 14 months, when in May, 2015 Duncan told me the matter was resolved and that I should prepare the computation for the retroactive payment for his approval, which I did on the 7th day of May, 2015”. This was just days before the May 11, 2015 general election. Deonarine said that he prepared the bank instructions and Duncan signed.

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