Jan 30, 2016 News
Minister was right to send GPL executive on leave – AG
Attorneys representing the Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, are adamant that the Minister
was within his legal rights and authority to order embattled former Guyana Power and Light, (GPL) Deputy Chief Executive Officer Aeshwar Deonarine, to proceed on administrative leave.
The matter came up before Chief Justice (Ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards at the Georgetown High Court, yesterday. Lawyers in the Attorney General’s Chambers, Prithmia Kissoon, Judy Stuart, Adrian Smith and Rajendra Jaigobin, are representing the State in the case while Attorney-at-Law Murseline Bacchus is representing Deonarine.
According to an affidavit in response to the motion filed by Deonarine‘s attorney, the lawyers are arguing that the Minister was at the time acting out of a necessity and within the powers outlined in his office when he asked Deonarine to proceed on leave.
Additionally, the lawyers are arguing that the motion is no longer applicable since Deonarine’s contract has now ended due to flux of time.
In October, Bacchus had filed a motion contending that the Minister had acted ultra vires when he essentially suspended Deonarine. The former GPL administrative head was suspended last July after an audit of the PetroCaribe Fund raised question about the payments.
The action facilitated a police investigation, which was launched into suspicious monetary transfers to Deonarine and his colleague’s Carvil Duncan’s accounts. The men had reportedly paid themselves, earlier, almost $29M without authorization.
Deonarine reportedly signed off on payments to himself totaling $28.7 million. Duncan would have received some $948,000. The amounts they claimed had represented back pay.
However more than three months after the accusations were leveled against the former Deputy Head, Government is faced with the legal challenge. In a letter to the newspaper, Deonarine’s Attorney had insisted that his client did not pay himself any money.
“He was entitled to that sum, as his salary was lawfully increased retroactively by those concerned of GPL.”
As a matter of fact, the Attorney-at-Law had noted that the then Chief Justice (Ag), Ian Chang granted orders, asking that Minister Patterson explain why his decision to send Deonarine home on July 22nd, should not be quashed as being unlawful, in excess or lack of jurisdiction, irrational, erroneous in law and ultra vires.
According to the lawyer, the order was entered on the November 6th and served on Minister Patterson. “GPL is not in any position to dispute that my client was entitled to the sum paid to him.
It would be a travesty of justice if my client is charged with any offence in view of the documentary evidence that would be with GPL and which I expect would be part of the ‘crime file’ if any.”
The discoveries of the ‘suspicious transfers’ were made by independent auditors who were probing the PetroCaribe Fund, which holds proceeds of oil shipments taken from neighbouring Venezuela.
Some of the monies were used to buy Wartsila engines for GPL among other things.
It was while tracking payments to GPL that auditors unearthed the strange transactions.
With regard to Duncan, Patterson in July reportedly said that the Board of Directors of GPL had approached Government to raise the Directors’ fees from $5,000 to $20,000 monthly, but no decision was made.
His back pay represented the 48 months he would have been a Director. Again, both Duncan and Deonarine signed off on the payments. Patterson disclosed that he had confronted Duncan who kept changing his story.
Deonarine reportedly transferred the monies to an overseas account and is said to be out of the country.
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