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Anti-corrpution watchdog flays govt for handling allegations against GPL CEO; claims double standards in dealing with corruption claims

The Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Power and Light, Colin Welch.

The country’s anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI),  Tuesday called on Public Infrastructure Minister  David Patterson to release details of a probe into alleged irregularities in the procurement of pre-paid electricity meters and accused government of double-standards in dealing with those accused of corruption.

“GPL is a major public entity and the Minister must understand that transparency is expected of and from him as proper conduct is expected from the CEO. TIGI therefore calls on the Minister to disclose to the public the report on the investigations so that the public can decide whether or not an independent review is required,” said TIGI which is affiliated with Transparency International.

The Minister refused to comment when he was contacted.

The pre-paid meters were valued at US$4 million.

In the wake of a report in the privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper that Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Colin Welch had allegedly communicated with a supplier and manufacturer of the items in relation to the procurement process, Director of Public Information Imran Khan had issued a statement, saying that “Minister Patterson… instructed an independent review of the complaints. All of the main complaints were found to be invalid”

At the end of a bitter row between Welch and then CEO, Bharrat Dindial earlier this year, the coalition government in the end sacked the latter person and appointed Welch as his successor.

TIGI said in light of the seriousness of the allegations including efforts to promote the submission of false documents to shore up the manufacturer’s experience in making the prepaid meters so that he could have possibly won the bid, Welch should have been sent on leave to pave the way for a probe.

“This is as good a case as any, for the individualto besent on leave to facilitate an investigationbut instead the public isbeing told that the future of Welch with the power company will be determined by the new Board,” said the organisation.

The transparency and accountability watchdog, which had been also harshly critical of the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration, suggested that the handling of the accusations against Welch indicated double-standards. Under the new government, senior officials have been sent on leave, in many cases without conformance to due process, on which TIGI has voiced its disapproval in the past… TIGI expects consistency from the Government and places on record our grave concern at the lack ofurgencybeing demonstrated.”

Those sent on leave so far include the Chief Executive Officer of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Michael Khan;  Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Rickford Vieria;  Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Kurshid Sattaur, and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Aeshwar Deonarine.  None of them has been charged with any offence. “TIGI feels that this (Welch) matter has not been treated with the gravity that has been meted out to other government officials facing allegations of corruption,” said the organisation.

TIGI denounced “the cavalier treatment by the Government” on the Welch-matter. “Instead of a thorough investigation in the face of allegations against a sitting CEO, the matter is instead quashed which appears to have the effect of averting in-depth investigation, and giving the CEO the chance to correct himself in future, if not completely absolve him from any consequences of his actions.

Troublingly, according to TIGI,  the Minister in aborting this tender on the basis that it started under the PPP, fails to appreciate that an illegal act is still illegal regardless of when it is committed or its origin.

TIGI said the Procurement regulation provides for complaints from a bidder in such cases where they feel they have been disadvantaged and such recourse should be considered in this case by the bidder who provided this information.