NCN frowns on conflict of interest claims with Board Director over debt-settlement

Last Updated on Tuesday, 7 June 2016, 17:58 by Denis Chabrol

The National Communications Network (NCN) on Tuesday dismissed claims of a conflict of interest in writing off  a  GYD$2 million debt owed by  Merundoi whose principal is Board Director, Margaret Lawrence.

The company said Merundoi’s proposal on April 4, 2016 had entailed the payment of GYD$250,000, plus allowing NCN access to two previous seasons of programme content of “Merundoi”  Radio Serial Drama (over 500 x 15 min episodes). Merundoi also proposed to collaborate with NCN to produce a TV Sitcom “Cheap and Sweet”,  the pilot of which it had submitted to NCN since 2012.

The state radio and television broadcaster said Lawrence was not present at the board meeting when the debt-cancellation decision was made. “At a special meeting on April 7th, 2016, the Board unanimously agreed to accept the offer.  Ms. Lawrence was not part of the meeting,” NCN said in a statement.

However, the company did not say in whose name was the proposed settlement made to NCN and whether Lawrence had attended the previous board meetings when the issue was discussed.

In arriving at the decision, NCN said its Board took account of, among other things, the fact that Merundoi is an NGO, it is not for profit, and it was willing to make the programme content available  to NCN and to collaborate on the production of local TV Sitcom.

The broadcasting company denied reports that the Board’s decision was not unanimous are untrue and erroneous.

NCN said the debt was racked up since March, 2012 when the then management remained silent on a proposal by Merundoi  to pay NCN 50 percent of the air-time cost and have the station absorb the remainder. “NCN did not respond favourably or otherwise to the proposal but collected the 50% broadcast fees and aired the programme. In 2014, NCN instituted court proceedings against Merundoi for the 50% of broadcast charges, and the matter engaged the court.”

Merundoi was established in 2006 under a five year United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. After those funds dried up, Merundoi continued producing radio serials focusing on other social issues.

NCN said it welcomes “all those indebted to it to engage us in arriving at settlements for outstanding debts.”