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GuySuco’s Board of Directors must be “competent in sugar”- Harmon; NICIL is not responsible for GuySuco, says Holder

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder

Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder said the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL)- the holding company for government’s assets- might not have been properly advised about who is responsible for naming a board for the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

“Perhaps, someone didn’t tell NICIL their role,” he said.

That Board, under the Chairmanship of Head of NICIL’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU), Colvin Heath-London has since been named, gazetted and the names of the directors submitted to the Company Registry. Jordan has said the Minister of State prematurely announced Guysuco’s new Board of Directors before full Cabinet approval.

Holder said Cabinet hoped to appoint a new Board before the end of April and “we are discussing possible names”.

“The Corporation is totally and solely owned by the Government of Guyana. The Minister of Agriculture answers to Parliament for what happens to GuySuco. I am accountable to this nation for its activities. Therefore, the Minister of Agriculture should have responsibility for Guysuco; therefore the Minister of Agriculture should appoint the Board of GuySuco,” Holder told Demerara Waves Online News.

The Minister of Agriculture said NICIL was merely a holding company for the shares of GuySuco. GuyOil and Guyana Power and Light. “It is not a government and therefore it carries out instructions of the government,” he said.

NICIL-SPU is tasked with receiving a valuation of GuySuco’s assets and selling them in whole or in part. In the interim, that entity is keeping Skeldon, Rose Hall-Canje, and Enmore- East Demerara Estates as going concerns for any buyer. Currently, Enmore is being used to produce molasses for rum production in a deal with the privately-owned Demerara Distillers Limited.

Head of the Special Purpose Unit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited, Colvin Heath-London (left) and Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.

For his part, Minister of State Joseph Harmon stated that NICIL and its Special Purpose Unit (SPU) are arms of the government which is the sole shareholder of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco). He  said that on Tuesday, a “very health discussion and debate” on the appointment of the Board was held. Among those participating were GuySuco’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul Bhim and SPU Head, Colvin Heath-London who gave a full brief on the state of the corporations.

“We believe that, based on the information which was provided to us, that Cabinet could cogitate on the matter very seriously and we could get an announcement of a Board for Guysuco in a very short space of time,” Harmon said.

The Minister of State said government’s priority was to ensure that all monies provided to GuySuco and other entities are fully accounted for and so that is related to the appointment of a Board. “I want to make this point very clear and that is that, as a government, it is our duty, our responsibility to ensure that monies that are spent- the people’s money that is spent on any entity whatsoever- that we have value for that money and that GuySuco or any other entity which comes to the State for subvention for money on a regular basis will, in fact, have to account to the people of this country through their government so that the question of a Board for GuySuco is not a simple matter,” he said.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

Now that Corporation has been downsized to run three factories and estates- Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt- the State Minister said government wants to ensure the corporation has “the best possible Board for the time that we have right now.”

“You require people who are competent in sugar, who understand the industry, who understand business, who understand the direction which we are going as a country to be able to serve on that Board,” Harmon added.

At the Company Registry, as of March 1, 2018 the following persons are listed as Directors of the Board of Guysuco:  Colvin Heath-London, Verna Adrian, Arianne Mc Lean, Dr. Roshan Khan, Annette Arjoon, Vishnu Panday, George Jervis, and Fritz Mc Lean.

Arianne Mc Lean replaced Frederick Singh as Secretary.

Those who ceased to hold office as directors were Professor Clive Thomas, Louise Bouyea, John Browman, Nigel Cumberbatch and Sharon Roopchand-Edwards.