Minister of Finance Winston Jordan on Friday clarified that Professor Clive Thomas remains Chairman of the board of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) as Cabinet had deferred a decision on a new board.
“…The Chairman of GuySuCo is still Dr Thomas. The board of GuySuCo ends this month. In keeping with his responsibilities, [Agriculture Minister Noel] Holder has to bring to the Cabinet a new board to be put in place when this one is finished,” Jordan replied at a news conference, after Colvin Heath-London, who heads the Special Purposes Unit (SPU) overseeing the divestment of some of GuySuCo’s assets, was asked if he was the Chairman.
While Heath-London did not go into the details of how he began acting in the capacity as substantive Chairman, he said that he was “informed” that he was the Chairman of GuySuCo. He did not say who had advised him.
A statement from the SPU in February had informed that the Thomas Board had been dissolved by a decision by government holding company, NICIL, which set up the SPU. In addition, NICIL had 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 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.
In an advertisement published on March 14th, NICIL named Health-London as the Chairman and listed eight other members of what it said would be an 11-member board. The advertisement carried brief bios and photos of the new board members, who were listed as Fritz McLean, Komal Singh, Arianne McLean, George Jervis, Verna Adrian, Vishnu Panday, Roshan Khan and Annette Arjoon. The two other members, the advertisement explained, would be GuySuCo executives, who would be named when their appointments are confirmed.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon would later explain that despite the advertisement, a decision was still to be made, and when it had been made it would follow the procedural requirements, such as being announced by Cabinet and being published in the Official Gazette.
The naming of a new Chairman of GuySuCo in the ad was also problematic as members of Cabinet had challenged the decision to have Heath-London as the Chairman of the company while also presiding over the privatization of four sugar estates.
Jordan on Friday sought to address the mix up, saying that “some of it was some confusion” and that government did not move “with haste” to correct the misinformation. “There was a sub-committee that met and discussed the issue of GuySuCo and its board. That sub-committee was chaired by Vice President Carl Greenidge and it included myself, Minister Harmon and Minister Noel Holder. That committee decided unanimously that the life of the GuySuCo board comes to an end and a new board put in place headed by Mr. London. Mr. Harmon, being the Secretary to Cabinet, obviously carried out the instruction and issued a Cabinet decision to that effect, but all sub-committee decisions have to be carried to the full Cabinet. It is when it went to the full Cabinet that it said no, we need to look at this more closely, they want to be sure where GuySuCo is going, they want to know what they are doing, be sure who are these people and so on,” he said, while explaining that this was a normal course.
“In essence then, Cabinet deferred decision on that board, so in doing a deferral, the decision that was written up by the secretary was null and void, once Cabinet did not approve the decisions made by the sub-committee. Let us be blunt, it is the full house at the end of the day who has to approve, disapprove or vary whatever the sub-committee would bring,” he added.
He said that there are several instances where sub-committee decisions were made, but not approved by the full Cabinet.
Questioned about the NICIL advertisement, Jordan said he did not see it, as he believes that he was out of the country on travel duty at the time. “I am saying to you the Chairman is Dr. Thomas…the board is still the board and it ends this month. I was traveling a lot… I don’t know what ad NICIL put in the papers. I don’t know what ad they had,” Jordan said.
Jordan made it clear that he was not responsible for GuySuCo and that it was still under the purview of Holder, and the Ministry of Finance is only a stakeholder due to NICIL being responsible for SPU’s work.
“Going forward, we are trying to keep an arm’s length, as much as possible, so that NICIL doesn’t contaminate GuySuCo’s operations as the case may be,” he said. “I don’t want it go out there that there is tug-o-war or something…,” he added.