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GEA staffers seek audience with government over “arbitrary” dismissals following polygraph tests

by Zena Henry

Staffers dismissed from the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) following the application of polygraph tests in March of 2013 are seeking an audience with the government to address what they say was their “arbitrary and illegal” dismissals.

An initial batch over 20 persons specifically, fuel inspectors and other field workers lost their jobs in 2013 following a lie detector test. GEA Director, Mahender Sharma, had confirmed then that tests were being administered to staffers who worked in the field, as a means trying to abate the smuggling of cheap fuel from neighbouring Venezuela in the avoidance of import taxes, specifically.

He said that the agency was trying “to ensure the integrity of the system and by extension, the officers employed under the fuel marking programme.” However, the dismissed workers were adamant then, and reiterated Monday July 3 that the whole process was done selectively.

Fitzroy Thomas, a dismissed analytical inspector had said in 2013 that he was fired, but reports pertaining to a massive fuel smuggling ring involving a prominent jewelry store owner never got passed the agency. Thomas said he had copied the information to government officials such as former PM Sam Hinds, but nothing came from the matter.

He and two other staffers are so far confirmed to head to Minister David Patterson’s office Wednesday for a meeting, and Thomas said he will be taking his report with him. Vernon James and Rawle Carol are others expected at the minister’s office. James had said that he was fired from his job a short while after reporting a fuel smuggling racket between a gas station and a fishery. Carol said he submitted himself for the test and was later fired.

However the men said workers are still upset, especially when to date, they have never seen the results of the lie detector test. They plan to show the minister that contended that certain persons, alleged to find favour with the agency’s administration would have failed the test too, but are still on the job.

While it was indicated that some persons want their jobs back others are seeking compensation for their “untimely and improper dismissals.” Some say finding work has been hard given that their record is that they failed a lie detector test. Carol says he wants his record cleared.

The GEA workers had protested the agency’s Middle Street office, while a court action was filed by now Attorney General Basil Williams. Workers’ unions and even the then opposition had issued statements condemning the manner in which the workers of “predominately Afro-Guyanese” were being fired.

When asked about his meeting with the men, Minister Patterson said he was not sure about the meeting, but it was only a matter of checking with his secretary and his diary in that regard.

Sharma had claimed at the time that GEA was getting reports against certain staffers and the lie detector test was administered. Calls were made for him too to take the test since they made allegations against him but that never materialized.

The public servant who was a prominent feature on the PPP candidate list has managed to remain under the radar, while other “public servants, turned politicians” got the boot for varying reasons from the government. It is understood that his work contract ends before year end, but Sharma did not confirm this when contacted.