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Hefty financial irregularities at GPL

Government has revealed that GPL Chief Executive Officer, Administration, Aeshwar Deonaraine, has been sent on administrative leave after it was found out that he wrongfully paid himself $27.8 million from the Petro-Caribe Fund.

Additionally, government has learned that a Director of the Board of Directors of Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc., Carvil Duncan, wrongfully authorised payment to himself to the tune of $948,000.

These revelations were made by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, on Wednesday during government’s post-Cabinet press briefing. According to Patterson, these findings have emerged from the ongoing forensic audits of the Petro-Caribe Fund.

Explaining the rationale given for the payment to Deonaraine, Patterson said Deonaraine had the amount transferred to him after repeated failed attempts to have his remuneration increased so as to be on par with GPL’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Operations.

“The Deputy Executive Officer of Operations is on a higher salary than Mr. Deonaraine as a result of differences in their contracts…(Deonaraine) has made representations to…the GPL Board that the there should be some sort of parity…he made several representations and this has been disapproved by the previous board,” Patterson explained.

However, Patterson says that documents uncovered in the forensic audit reveal that “in June of this year, with the supporting signature of Director Carvil Duncan, he paid himself the retroactive amount of $27.8 million, representing fees from January 2013 to June 2015.”

In Duncan’s case, Patterson explained that the payments made to him came after failed attempts by GPL’s Board to have the remuneration paid to board-members increased.

“The Board of GPL had made representations to the previous administration that the board fees…be increased from $5,000 to $20,000. The Board discussed it but no final decision was made,” Patterson told reporters.

Nevertheless, Patterson continued, “in April this year, Director Carvil Duncan approved payment for himself to the sum of $948,000, representing back-pay for the months he has been on the board of GPL.” Patterson said that Duncan was unable to say who authorised the payment when he was confronted.

He said that in the first instant, Duncan claimed that the Board provided him with the authority to authorise the payment. When the matter was followed up Duncan reportedly then claimed that it was the Board’s Chairman, Winston Brassington, who authorised the payment.

Government then contacted Brassington, Patterson explained, who denied authorising the payment. Confronted with Brassington’s denial, Duncan reportedly changed his story again; claiming that is was the Secretary of the Board who must have authorised the payment.

Again, checks revealed that the Secretary of the Board did not make the payment.

“When he was further consulted he said the Former Prime Minister, who was called, and he said no such thing…The final word he said he suggested then that it had to be President (Donald) Ramotar who approved the increase.

Since these revelations, Deonaraine has been asked to return the money, and has been sent on administrative leave. Duncan, however, remains Director of GPL’s Board which comes to the end of its life at the end of this month.

Duncan also serves as Chairman of the Private Service Commission (PSC), and by virtue of this office, a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JCS). He is also a member of the Police Service Commission (PSC).

Patterson said that this information will be handed to authorities for action. Minister of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, clarified that these authorities include the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

Early last month, the Government of Guyana (GoG) said that the Petro-Caribe Fund has been bankrupted due to improper management.