Guyana National Printers Limited (GNPL), a state-owned company, on Friday, caused to be published a full-page advertisement in the local press on
what has now evolved into a full-blown scandal over the procurement and distribution of text and exercise books.
In that paid advertisement, the GNPL has distanced itself from a published photo of an exercise book order from Trinidad.
It is now saying that orders made to Trinidad, came directly from the Ministry of Education.
However, this would conflict with the Ministry which said that it has contracted only GNPL to print exercise and textbooks in Guyana.
The Ministry in a statement in response to the allegation that it printed contracted out the services to Trinidad, said that it only used GNPL to source exercise and textbooks.
The GNPL advertisement, on Friday, would raise deep questions about which one of the state entities is telling the truth or whether there is a cover-up underway.
There is hundreds of millions of dollars involved. This year alone almost $600M has been set aside for printing of text and
According to photos released recently to Kaieteur News, the shipment from Trinidad’s Eniath Printing Company Limited included 56-page books, instead of the normal 80-page.
GNPL denied it ordered those books. Rather, it said it is contracted by the Ministry to supply 80-page exercise books and these are normally verified and received by the Ministry of Education (MoE) staffers.
“GNPL have neither manufactured nor sourced from any company 56-page exercise books. GNPL have also never sourced exercise books from Eniath.”
GNPL claimed in the advertisement that the image published by Kaieteur News may have either been photoshopped by the newspaper; old stock sourced directly from the Trinidad company by the MoE, or recent stock sourced directly by the ministry from Eniath.
GNPL and the Education Ministry are facing accusations from local printers of deliberately stifling their businesses. Rather, since 2017, the Coalition Government has sole-sourced GNPL to print its books which are distributed to public schools from nursery to the secondary levels.
A number of local printers have said they want a meeting with President David Granger for him to explain the situation.
Wrongdoing in the procurement of books is nothing new in Guyana. In fact, the Audit Office of Guyana has consistently red-flagged the procurement and distribution of books to public schools.
The GNPL was recently in the news when it became clear to private printers that something was amiss.
From the understanding of local printers, books were being printed in Trinidad while they did not have an opportunity to bid. The advertisement on Friday by GNPL instead sought to target Kaieteur News, instead of addressing the key issues.
A number of the private printers wanted GNPL to explain whether the proper procurement procedures were followed and as such, did Guyana get value for its money.
They also want to know what is Government’s policy when it comes to state companies competing directly with private companies.
The local printers which said they have been sidelined include A1 Printery, Kimoke Printery, Kaieteur Books Inc. and F&H Printing Establishment, among others.
Responding to GNPL’s claims that Kaieteur News had its motives on the reports, publisher of the newspaper, Glenn Lall, made it clear that he will not be deterred.
“Yes, one of our sister companies is Kaieteur Books Inc. Should the company roll over and turn a blind eye to wrongdoing because it wants business?
“National Printers is now trying to divert the attention from the investigations that the Audit Office has launched. They have failed to address the issues.”
According to Lall, nobody asked GNPL what it is doing for the rest of Guyana or for its staffers.
“Yet in the advertisement they are trying to mislead the nation that they bought a six-colour press and it is working…It is not working. Almost $100M was spent on that.
“They should tell Guyana the price they are paying the local printers for books, and the price at which they are selling to the Ministry.
“It is almost double the price to Government. That is what they should be saying. Is this how we do business? By competing unfairly with private companies?”
“The question is, how can Guyana grow when GNPL could supply books it did not print and charge double the price to the Ministry? The government is actually propping up a state agency at the expense of the private sector.”
Lall said that GNPL is also trying to divert the attention from reports that the Chairman of the Board, Ronald Alert, has been running the state company and conducting board meetings from where he lives in the US.
“We are now learning that the Guyana Elections Commission is giving GNPL work to print forms for house-to-house registration. Were proper procurement procedures followed? “How do we know we received value for our monies? We stand by our photos of the shipment from Trinidad. Somebody is not telling the truth and it will come out.”
GNPL, an 80-year-old state company, fell on hard times. In 2016, during a visit, President David Granger committed resources to modernize its press. What was not said was that the GNPL would be competing directly with local private printers.
This company is still struggling. On Friday, it spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the daily newspapers to respond by way of a whole page advertisement to charges made by Kaieteur News.
That could have been done by way of a press release which would have cost the company precious little.
Further the coverage would have been wider since radio and television would have picked up the story.
In recent years there has been increasing awareness over how tax dollars are being spent and that there are proper procurement procedures being followed.
However, still, there have been emerging cases where ingenious ways have been found by executives to beat the system.
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