Jun 07, 2021 News
– Former boss says it was for studies and overtime meals
Kaieteur News – It was revealed on Friday last that the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) had spent a total of $103M for the years 2018 and 2019 on overseas travel and food.
This disclosure was made during a press conference held via ZOOM by the company’s current management which had highlighted instances of poor financial management by GWI from 2015-2020.
The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Richard Van West-Charles, who was in charge of the company’s operation for that period, has since related to Kaieteur News that the money was spent for studies and overtime meals.
During last Friday’s press conference, the water utility company’s current Managing Director (MD), Shaik Baksh, said that before August 2020, GWI was on the verge of collapse and that one of the reasons for this was “reckless spending”.
Part of the “reckless spending”, according Baksh, was the millions that were spent on overseas travel and meals.
“And don’t talk about the overseas travel”, he said before listing the figures that were spent on this alone for 2018 and 2019.
“In 2018, $26.8M was spent for overseas travel and in 2019, $26M for overseas travel”, the MD told reporters.
Baksh went on to note that for meals, GWI spent $50M in 2019.
These figures would amount to $102.8M or almost $103M which was spent in two years for overseas travel and meals.
When contacted yesterday, the company’s former boss, Van West-Charles, said he does not know “what they (the current GWI management) are trying to say by overseas travel”.
“Personally, I did not go on any overseas travel”, he added.
Nevertheless, the ex-boss continued that “what he knows” is that staff was sent overseas to study.
Van West Charles posited that the overseas study for staff is a very important move to build capacity within the company.
He noted that some of them were sent to do post graduate training in specific areas to boost the GWI’s capacity. Two of the company’s engineers, he said were sent to Europe in 2019.
“One of them studied in the Netherlands and the other one he studied in the United Kingdom”, related the former GWI boss.
Those engineers, according to Van West-Charles completed their studies and returned in 2020.
For 2018, the former CEO, detailed that a batch of employees were sent to a conference in Oklahoma, a city located in the United States of America (USA), to be trained for the operation of rigs.
Van West-Charles said, he cannot recall the exact number of employees who were sent to the conference but related that they were around four to five persons.
In a recently held press conference by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), addressing GWI’ move to send home some 157 employees, Van West-Charles had mentioned that some staff members were sent to Spain for training.
That training was to ensure the employees are able to effectively operate a Geophysical Logging Equipment the company had procured under his leadership to enhance the GWI’s well drilling precision. The equipment is a set of tools that are used in Geophysical well logging or what is also known as bore hole logging in order to find water beneath the earth’s surface.
Van West-Charles had argued that by being capable to use this technology, the company will not have to waste resources on drilling multiple wells to find water.
“Remember one time they were drilling multiple wells in order to find water? Well until this technology was introduced and together with the United Nations Development Programme, ourselves, and with some resources from Japan we bought this equipment and had people trained in Spain, so you can have a more precision in the drilling when looking for water,” he had stated.
With regards to the $50M spent on food, Van West-Charles told Kaieteur News that meals were for employees working overtime.
“I don’t know if you could recall there were some breakages on cemetery road and along Church Street and other places, those had to be fixed immediately and meals had to be provided for those workers who worked overtime”
The former GWI boss said meals were also provided for the workers who had to work late hours just to repair and rehabilitate old infrastructure across the country.
Van West-Charles then contended, “You have to give meals to the people working overtime” and stated that it is part of the “labour agreement to do so”.
GWI’s financial records came under radar after the company stated that it was essentially cash-strapped to the point where it could not pay its electricity bill for a year and had owed the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) some $7B for the period 2018 to 2020.
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