The government is still to decide on a new board for the downsized Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Minister of State Joseph Harmon said on Friday.
“Cabinet has requested to have a further consideration of the Board of Guysuco,” Harmon told a post-Cabinet press briefing.
This newspaper had been told that the proposed appointment of the head of the unit set up to oversee privatisation of four sugar estates as the Chairman of GuySuCo has generated opposition at Cabinet. It came up again for discussion at last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
Some members of Cabinet feel that not only has there been a “straying away from the white paper proposal made in parliament on sugar” but that there is an inherent conflict in having the head of the regulatory body [the Board] be also responsible for the oversight of the sale of the very assets of the corporation.
The appointment of a new GuySuCo Board had been on the agenda at the last meeting of Cabinet in February.
The old Board, chaired by Professor Clive Thomas, was dissolved as of February 14th. A statement the week before from the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) which is overseeing the privatisations had informed of the Board’s dissolution, saying it that it was a decision by government holding company, NICIL. In addition, NICIL instructed GuySuCo to freeze all hiring and not to renew any employee contracts.
“The life of the board of GuySuCo came to an end on February 14 after the Board of Directors of NICIL, in a Special Board Meeting, made the decision to install a new board focused on the transformation of the corporation as envisioned by NICIL-SPU,” the statement had said.
“The NICIL board also instructed GuySuCo to freeze all hiring and to not renew any employee contracts that are expiring at this time. NICIL has begun working with the management team at the corporation to implement management changes, some of these changes are already being implemented and more are expected to follow in the coming weeks,” it added.
Thomas told this newspaper that he was never informed of a new Board being proposed and he wrote members of the old board informing them that it seemed they no longer had a role to play.
“The last communication I got was from the Minister of Agriculture [Noel Holder] who called me to say that what was being reported in the press [that a new board was appointed] was not what he knew and there was no official action taken at the level of the Cabinet,” Thomas said.
He explained that given the nature of the situation, he did not “want talk too much” about the matter. “Put it this way, based on the information I got, I wrote a letter to the board members that we have no role but by then nobody had written to tell us what is happening,” he said.
He said that government as the dominant shareholder in the corporation will have to decide if it wants to make the SPU Head the Chairman of GuySuCo. “It is their responsibility if they want the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Agriculture there,” he said.
Thomas believes that he made a positive difference in the life of GuySuCo during his tenure as Chairman. “Yes, I think I did,” he said, when asked.
Colvin Heath-London was proposed as Chairman at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting.
But sources say the proposal did not sit well with Cabinet members, who voiced their disapproval and a decision was taken to put off the naming of the Board for further analysis.
Harmon on Friday said that he believes that the issues will be worked out very soon and will allow for the appointment of a new Chairman.
“Cabinet made comments with respect to the Board of GuySuCo that was identified and I am sure that within a short space of time all of the issues that relate to the Board will be clarified and that there will be a full board of GuySuCo appointed, gazetted and working,” Harmon said.