GuySuCo managers want to cut ties with SPU

-urge eviction of unit from LBI compound

Colvin Heath-London

Senior managers have asked GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Harold Davis Jr to move to suspend the company’s relations with the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) set up by government to divest its assets, citing a turbulent relationship that they say has undermined its business over the last year and a half.

So toxic is the engagement between the two entities that the managers have also recommended that the SPU be evicted from GuySuCo’s LBI Compound, unless it agrees to comply with the policies under which the sugar company operates.

“This situation has reached a highly unacceptable stage and therefore requires immediate intervention from all relevant authorities,” an extract of the letter, dated December 4th, 2018, which was seen by this newspaper, states.

“We would like to state that since the establishment of the Special Purpose Unit in August, 2017, the relationship with GuySuCo has been one of much turbulence, disrespect, unprofessionalism and some activities have even bordered on illegality. We are of the strong view that the situation has deteriorated to a state where the Ministry of Finance, as the principal agency for NICIL/SPU now has to take the necessary actions to ensure that the NICIL/ SPU operates in a manner in keeping with accepted professional norms and practices…,” it adds.

Efforts by Stabroek News in the past to elicit information from the SPU on its relationship with GuySuCo have failed.

The letter was also copied to Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder, who last evening said that he was yet to see the correspondence as he spent all day at the National Assembly. He said that he was not aware that the situation between GuySuCo and the SPU had reached such a stage where such strong recommendations would be made.

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, whose ministry oversees the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), which set up the SPU, said that he too was not aware that GuySuCo’s managers had complained although he admitted knowledge of a misunderstanding between the two bodies over the use of the LBI compound and the sports club facility located there. However, he said he believes that the misunderstanding does not warrant ministerial intervention, as the heads of both entities are mature enough to come to an amicable resolution.

“We have nothing to do with GuySuCo anymore. They are under the Ministry of Agriculture. I do know they had some issue to do with the LBI compound. I don’t know about any other issue. I am leaving that to NICIL and the management of GuySuCo. I don’t think they need a minister to intervene. I hope they can work it out essentially. I think NICIL had put in some money and upgraded the facility and there is some issue about ownership—about who owns the compound. GuySuCo is claiming that they do and NICIL said that it was vested to them,” Jordan said.

“I just hope that in the spirit of things that all sides can use the compound. I don’t see no reason why not; we are all government. I don’t see why we have to use brinkmanship, or gunmanship, as the case maybe. I believe that they will solve it eventually. There are two reasonable people. Colvin (Heath-) London is acting as the CEO because the CEO (Horace James) is in hospital in the states and Dr. Davis is in charge of GuySuCo… I don’t think they need any minister to get involved really. They can solve it,” he added.

Clashes over the use of the club is just one of the many complaints made by the GuySuCo managers, who say their staffers have been subjected to disrespect by the SPU, which they have accused of authoritarian behaviour and unprofessionalism.

The most recent incident over the use of the facility occurred last Saturday, when the  SPU reportedly organised a Bar-B-Q to which members of the public were invited. However, GuySuCo’s security personnel at the premises were given instructions not to allow members of the public into the compound.

The letter stated that a staff member of the SPU proceeded to the main entrance and personally opened the gate, disregarding the instructions of the security and allowed members of the public into the compound.

“When the security contacted the SPU staff, to inform him that he was not permitted to perform security duties or manage the gate in the compound, the staff told the officer that ‘he can do what the (expletive)  he wanted.’ (A SPU official)  then drove to the gate and blocked the main entrance of the compound with his vehicle (car), preventing the gate from being closed so as to allow members of the public to enter the compound,” the letter added.

According to the managers, they later learnt that the NICIL/SPU has written management of GuySuCo stating that the corporation had prevented their guests from entering the LBI compound on December 1st and that the Ministry of Finance wanted to have the names of the officers so that it would commence the necessary disciplinary measures.

The managers said the SPU’s use of the club, which was formerly used as a training facility for GuySuCo’s staff, has become “a serious embarrassment and security concern” for GuySuCo and called it a departure from established professional norms and practices.

Police reports

They also detailed incidents of hostility by the SPU over the period January to November of this year, including what they allege are false police reports made by the SPU.

They maintained that the SPU unilaterally took over and refurbished the GuySuCo ‘Training Facility and Staff Club,’ forcing GuySuCo’s Head Office staff to find an alternative training facility. This has been the situation for the past eleven months, they said, while noting that the facility, which has been converted into a sports bar, is being operated by the SPU on a weekly basis.

They said on September 28th, 2018, the SPU planned a launch of the bar without the necessary permission from GuySuCo, which subsequently postponed the event.

Similarly, they say that on November 24th, 2018, the SPU intended to facilitate a ‘Pool Party’ in the GuySuCo LBI Compound for members of the public and again GuySuCo was forced to cancel the event.

The managers said too that in November GuySuCo changed the locks in an attempt to regain control of the club, since the SPU was in possession of the keys, which was a breach of security rules and regulations for the compound. The SPU then proceeded to put on new locks and is again in possession of the keys, they added.

Additionally, it was noted that in both October and November, ranks from the Cove and John and Beterverwagting police stations went to GuySuCo’s Head Office to investigate reports that GuySuCo was preventing residents from having access to the LBI club and that GuySuCo had instructed the breaking and entering of the club. The managers said police even attempted to arrest one of GuySuCo’s senior managers.

The managers also voiced concern over Heath-London’s occupation of the Regional Director’s premises in the compound. They claim that he has also surveyed the property, which is against the policy of GuySuCo. “The plan for the survey states ‘Plot CL’ (meaning Colvin London). The Corporation has since written to the appropriate authorities on the matter and has indicated that no title should be processed,” they noted.

The letter pointed out that in May GuySuCo wrote the Agriculture Minister to complain about the compromised relationship with the SPU and again in November, the management of GuySuCo wrote to NICIL informing the agency of the security concerns relative to the LBI compound and the public events organised by the SPU.

Ground rules

Saying that the situation has negatively impacted GuySuCo’s corporate image and business and has also undermined its security, the managers recommended to Davis that the company should discontinue its professional relationship with the SPU “until proper ground rules are established” as it relates to their working together.

On this point, they contended that the SPU has not been adding any real value to GuySuCo’s operations but rather has been taking away value. “About 90% of the engagements between GuySuCo and the SPU have been negative so far, due to the SPU’s unprofessionalism,” they say.

As a result, they further recommend that GuySuCo seeks to obtain a date for the expiration of contractual obligations for the SPU and signal to the Ministry of Finance and NICIL that it has no interest or intention in continuing engagements with the SPU beyond its current contractual obligations since the agency is not adding value to the business of GuySuCo.

They also recommend the immediate eviction of the SPU from the LBI compound, unless the agency agrees to comply with the professional norms, practices and policies under which GuySuCo operates and the laws of Guyana.

They say too that Heath-London should be evicted from the LBI compound forthwith as a decisive signal to secure the Corporation’s property on that location and to protect the billions of dollars in government assets.

As it relates to the club, the managers urge that it be closed immediately until a common understanding and procedures are implemented to ensure that all relevant parties and relevant agencies resident in the compound are properly informed of their roles and responsibilities, including liabilities, in the event of accidents or incidents, particularly non-work related ones.

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