By Leonard Gildarie
Colin Welch, Chief Executive Officer (ag) of the state-owned Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL), will not be sent on leave to facilitate ongoing investigations.
Rather, says David Patterson, Minister of Public Infrastructure, the report into allegations that the executive attempted to tamper with a multi-million-dollar prepaid meter contract earlier this year, will be handed to a soon to be appointed Board of Directors. The new board is expected to be in place by mid-January.
Patterson was questioned by media during his year-end press conference on the performance of the various agencies and departments under his watch. He has responsibilities for the power sector.
The Minister disclosed that the report from the investigation is not yet completed, but because of issues of transparency and independence of GPL, it has to be handled by the board.
“My preference is always open and (for) transparency. I will give it to them and ask them to review.”
Asked why Welch was still on duty given the seriousness of the allegations, Patterson said that he did not find it necessary to remove the official.
“If you are trying to say if he will impede the investigation… that is not happening. The current state does not impede investigations. It depends on the nature of the investigation.”
In early December, Welch who was elevated to the CEO (ag) back in August following the stormy sacking of his former boss, Bharat Dindyal, was implicated in a number of leaked text messages.
In those texts, Welch allegedly asked a Chinese manufacturer of prepaid meters to lie about the fact that the company doesn’t make the particular kind of meter that was needed by GPL.
He also promised to waive a number critical tests that would have ensure the meters are of the standards required by GPL.
The contract was for 28,000 prepaid meters at a value of US$4.2M.
Following the publication of the alleged tampering, Minister Patterson confirmed that he had ordered the tender be done over and an investigation into the text messages.
Welch insisted that he was innocent and that the text messages were fake and that he had been framed. He said that he was being targeted for tackling corruption in GPL, a company which is handling billions of dollars to buy fuel and manage power along the coastland for more than 170,000 customers.
The award of the contract to Tesco PLC in April ran into early trouble when one of the unsuccessful bidders complained that the assessment of the bids was flawed and that Tesco’s manufacturer of the meters, Shenzhen Clou Electronics Company Limited, was not making those types of meters that were being requested by GPL.
The purported text messages by Welch to the two foreign companies were leaked to Minister Patterson, GPL Directors and Managers, and Government officials weeks ago.
It appeared from the leaked texts that during the objections period raised by the irate bidder, Welch somehow started communicating with both companies.
This is a big no-no as procurement regulations bar state officials from intervening while the tender is being handled by the tender board, to ensure transparency.
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