Dec 23, 2015 News
– demands Welch be sent on leave
Corruption watchdog body, Transparency Institute Guyana Inc., has attacked the new administration over its handling of allegations of wrongdoing by Colin Welch, the head of the state-owned Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL).
Welch, who was appointed as Chief Executive Officer (ag) of the company in August, following the sudden, stormy departure of long-serving Bharat Dindyal, found himself in hot water earlier this month after a series of text messages implicated him in attempts to swing a multi-million purchase of prepaid meters.
Welch categorically denied the purported texts, saying they were falsely created and that he had been framed. He said that the people who created the chat site spelt his name incorrectly; they used a computer that was not connected to him in any way.
The texts, which were denied by Welch, suggested that he asked the supplier to lie to authorities in Guyana about the specifications.
The leaked messages were sent to a number of top Government officials, including Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and GPL management.
A review would reveal that the IP address of the computer used would not have been connected to him. He uses a laptop, only.
Further, Mr Welch said that he had no way of contacting the people whom they said he contacted. He said that he was made aware of the brouhaha when the supplier called him. He said that the supplier was convinced that he could not have been the person chatting, since the telephone conversation between Welch and the supplier revealed a party setting that could not have facilitated any Skype chat.
Minister Patterson said last week that he has ordered a report on the alleged tampering of the contract and of the texts. He will have GPL’s new Board of Directors, when it is appointed, handle the matter.
The tender was aborted and will be done over. However, Transparency Institute, which has been scolding consecutive governments on issues of transparency and perceived corruption, was harsh in its criticisms of the new David Granger-led administration.
Welch, the internationally-linked organization said, has been implicated in irregularities involving the procurement of prepaid meters worth US$4M by the power company.
“Mr. Welch is reported to have communicated with members of a bidding party and more specifically, a supplier and manufacturer of the items subject to the procurement process.”
The body explained that with a view to ensuring the fundamental basic principles of impartiality, independence and integrity, the public procurement framework sets out clear ethical requirements by the procuring entity which necessarily includes the conduct of the CEO.
“More egregiously, it is reported that the CEO sought to promote the submission of documents falsely claiming that the manufacturer had historically met the purchasing requirements and therefore possesses the experience in the manufacture of the item, tipping the scale in this supplier’s favour,” the statement said.
TIGI denounced the ”cavalier treatment” by the Government on this matter where 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”.
An official said that “Transparency International could not be serious to consider acting on a fallacy. Perhaps the time has come when Transparency International should be conducting its own investigation”.
But the body insists that the situation gives Welch the chance to correct himself in future, if not completely absolve him from any consequences of his actions.
This is actually finding Welch guilty without any proof.
“TIGI feels that this matter has not been treated with the gravity that has been meted out to other government officials facing allegations of corruption. Troublingly, the Minister (Patterson), 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 it is dissatisfied that the Director of Public Information, issued a press statement which said that “Minister Patterson… instructed an independent review of the complaints. All of the main complaints were found to be invalid” since no information is given on who constituted the investigation team, nor any assurance of a transparent investigation having taken place.
The body argued that 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. 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.”
SEND ON LEAVE!
TIGI also noted that under the new government, senior officials have been sent on leave, in many cases without conformance to due process–the body had voiced its disapproval in the past.
“This is as good a case as any, for the individual to be sent on leave to facilitate an investigation but instead, the public is being told that the future of Welch with the power company will be determined by the new Board.
TIGI expects consistency from the Government and places on record our grave concern at the lack of urgency being demonstrated.”
GPL went out to tender for the supply of some 28,000 prepaid meters worth over US$4 million.
In early April, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) closed the bids with Tesco PLC, a British company, reportedly winning the contract and undertook to supply.
Tesco was going to procure the meters out of China. It was buying from Shenzhen Clou Electronics Company Limited of China to supply to GPL.
However, one of the bidders objected to the evaluation and the subsequent award, claiming that Tesco’s supplier, Shenzhen Clou Electronics Company Limited, does not manufacture the 100-amp meters required by GPL.
Rather, Shenzhen’s website and other information indicate that they specialize in other specifications that were not required by GPL.
According to GPL officials, another objection raised had to do with the inspection of the meters. The tender board, following up on the objection by the bidder, wrote both Tesco and Shenzhen, asking for clarifications.
It appeared that during the wait for answers, Welch allegedly 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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