General Manager (GM) of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL) Sherod Duncan has been sent on administrative leave by the company’s Board of Directors, in order to facilitate an investigation into allegations that he has mismanaged the company’s funds and engaged in excessive spending since his appointment.
In a post on his Facebook page, Duncan indicated that he would be “proceeding on Administrative Leave with immediate effect… pending the outcome of investigations into allegations of mismanagement of funds and excessive spending.”
He added, “This is under the direction of the Board of Directors. I welcome this decision. God is in charge and all shall be well.”
Also on administrative leave is Financial Controller Moshamie Ramotar, whom Duncan had dismissed on Monday after leaked financial documentation of his spending was reported by online news site Demerara Waves.
According to Ramotar’s lawyer, Sanjeev Datadin, his client received a letter of reinstatement, which indicated that an investigation is ongoing. “She received a subsequent letter that she should proceed on 14 days of administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation,” he added.
Speaking on Ramotar’s dismissal, Datadin said it was the most bizarre thing he has ever seen.
“She was given no reason; no hearing. I think you at least got to say you did X and as a result we are firing you; you have to say why,” he explained.
He indicated that after reading the dismissal letter, he had written the company on behalf of Ramotar, expressing her intention to initiate legal action if she were not reinstated immediately.
Several hours later, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo summoned Chairperson of the Board of Directors Geeta Chandan-Edmond and Duncan to an emergency meeting.
A statement issued after the meeting noted that “the Chair and the GM agreed that the letter of termination issued to the Finance Comptroller will be immediately rescinded and that the Board should determine the appropriate course of action that could follow.”
The Prime Minister further instructed that a full investigation be conducted by the Board on both the dismissal and the expenditures and that a report be presented to him, as subject minister, upon its completion.
A date has not been set for the submission of the report but with Ramotar having been sent on 14 days leave it would be expected that the investigation would be concluded before the end of September.
Repeated attempts to reach Chandan-Edmond continue to prove futile as calls to her mobile phone over the last four days have gone unanswered.
Based on records seen by Stabroek News, in June the company paid $189,995 for a laptop for Duncan and $100,000 in July for one Apple IPad. Other expenses allegedly include $160,000 to one “Jeffers” for work on the Chronicle’s Facebook Page and GY$190,000 to IntellectStorm for work on its website and Front Page. In August, another GY$400,000 was paid to IntellectStorm as well as $54,000 to “Jeffers.”
The company also purchased a drone in July for $140,000 and paid $92,000 for two backdrops—one in July and another in August. A retractable banner, valued at $55,000, was also purchased in August, as was a truss and tablet floor stand for $271,806.
The Social Media Coordinator was provided a computer valued at $260,000 and $75,000 was spent on a drone case.
Several other expenses detailed included various payments for gas and repairs to the car assigned to Duncan and more than $700,000 in travel expenses for a trip to Lethem and one to New York.