New board for GuySuCo remains in flux

-Harmon says NICIL press release was premature

Despite the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) on Wednesday naming a Board for the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Minister of State Joseph Harmon yesterday stressed that the issue is still engaging the attention of Cabinet.

“There is no disparity. There is only a matter of timing in the release of information, that is all there is. That the matter is still engaging Cabinet. The release should not have been released at that time but we are still moving ahead with what we have to do in GuySuCo,” Harmon told Stabroek News on the sidelines of the sitting of the National Assembly yesterday.

Harmon had on Friday said that government is still to decide on a GuySuCo board but government holding company, NICIL went ahead and named board members, raising questions about which body is in charge of the process.

Naming Special Purpose Unit (SPU) head Colvin Health-London as the Chairman, the advertisement, on page 15 of the Wednesday edition of Stabroek News, lists eight other members of what it said will be an 11-member Board and gives a brief bio of each. The two other members, the advertisement explained, will be GuySuCo executives and will be named when their appointments are confirmed.

The other members listed are Fritz McLean, Komal Singh, Arianne Mc Lean, George Jervis, Verna Adrian, Vishnu Panday, Roshan Khan and Annette Arjoon.

The content of the advertisement is contradictory to Harmon’s statement to the press that a decision was still to be made and when it has been made it will follow the procedural requirements such as being announced by Cabinet and in the Official Gazette.

The naming of the chairman of GuySuCo in the ad is also problematic as members of Cabinet have challenged the decision to have Heath-London be the chair of the company while also presiding over the privatization of four sugar estates.

Yesterday, Harmon added that he could not say if the Board will comprise the persons named by NICIL as other names might have to be added.  “I can’t say precisely that all of it will be the same but we may very well have to add some other people to it,” he said.

According to sources, NICIL’s paid advertisement has irked Cabinet members who are in shock that the agency would give the names of a proposed Board and list it as approved.

“There is… mischief here. We never agreed on that board. It is absolutely not true and no government is going to advertise decisions of Cabinet. That is terrible. I was taken aback being a member of Cabinet that was what is happening,” one source said.

“As far as I am aware, no decision has been made so I am not sure, as the case may be, where this is coming from and we will have to get to the bottom of this at the next Cabinet meeting,” another source posited.

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 week 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.

NICIL stated in Wednesday’s ad that the new Board “was approved by Cabinet on February 26th 2018 and that the appointments took effect on March 1st 2018”.

It is unclear how documenting of a purported Cabinet decision could have been done without the necessary approval of members.

Harmon said that on the issue of how the document was leaked, this newspaper would have to ask itself because he understands that it was the Stabroek News who first got the information. “You would know because the person who leaked it took it to you, to Stabroek News,” he said.

It was the Kaieteur News that first reported on the Cabinet Document.

The old Board, chaired by Professor Clive Thomas, was dissolved as of February 14th. A statement the week before from the SPU, which is overseeing the privatisations, had informed of the Board’s dissolution, saying 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 that they no longer had a role to play.

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