Jun 24, 2022 News
– company says 400 jobs at risk given non-approval of Local Content certificate
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – The private sector has backed the decision by the Local Content Secretariat to withhold approval of a local content certificate to Ramps Logistics Guyana.
However, the company said the decision has put some 400 jobs at risk and also, has the potential to significantly slow down the pace of business regarding oil and gas support. Ramps Logistics is also seeking clarity as to why it was denied its local content certificate which it applied for since April last. During a news conference on Thursday at the company’s New Market Street location, Shaun Rampersaud, company Chairman, expressed deep concern and hurt that the company was issued with a mere automated email to say that it was denied the local content certificate, after some nine years of business in the country, and the employment of more than 400 persons thus far.
Ramps is desperately seeking a response from the Local Content Secretariat as to what caused the denial since this move would prevent the company to legally provide its logistics services to the oil and gas sector. The denial is a huge blow to the support agency since its services and experiences peak within the energy sector. Ramps would have provided the press reporters with all the information it said it provided to the Secretariat in its application. In its bid to be transparent, the company provided information before and after its divestment.
In meeting the Local Content criteria, Ramps said that four main areas are looked at; these are: the company must be registered in Guyana; it must have 90 percent Guyanese employees; 75 percent management team and 51 percent Guyanese owned. The chairman said that the company believes that it met all the requirements and provided figures to show that about 398 Ramps employees are Guyanese and that on its Board of Directors and Management team, only two persons respectively, were not Guyanese. As it relates to the company being 51 percent Guyanese owned, the Ramps chairman showed that its current partner, Trinidad born Deepak Lall, has strong connections to Guyana through his family, in particular, his father and grandfather, who were born here in Guyana and his grandfather being a prominent businessman within the British Guiana era. Lall’s grandfather was said to have businesses in various industries including ship making, transportation but most importantly the energy sector having owned Lall’s (Esso) service centre in Vreed-en-Hoop. The Lall family was said to have had a long history within the energy sector with Deepak himself pursing education in Engineering.
Today, Qualitech Engineering in Trinidad, where Deepak Lall is the Managing Director, is one of the leading engineering firms in the region. Given this background, Rampersaud said Ramps decided to go with this investor since the company wanted someone that would not only add value to the company, but to Guyana as well. Lall purchased 51 percent of Ramps Logistics (Guyana) for US$1M and became majority holder of the company receiving shares equal to that of the Ramps owners.
With all this done, the company said it is still in the dark as to where it went wrong with the local content certificate. The company said several attempts were made to get information from the Secretariat about the denial including a lawyer’s letter seeking clarification, but no avenue proved fruitful.
The company said that the denial of a Local Content Certificate will negatively affect the company and ultimately threaten Guyanese employees’ livelihood. “The Local Content Secretariat is entirely within its right to refuse entry to any company seeking registration according to the legislation. However, we ask that reason be given for this denial so that companies can take the necessary steps to become compliant.” Ramps has indicated that concerns have been raised about companies using locals to quickly access local content and thus questioned whether Lall, despite his Guyanese connection was adequate to satisfy what constitutes local content. When asked, Rampersaud said that Lall is a Guyanese national having received his Guyanese passport last year. Rampersaud, replied that he does not believe that Lall got his Guyanese passport conveniently to facilitate his business here, although it was his first time receiving the local travel document. Rampersaud said instead what was looked at was the value the gentleman brought to Guyana and the fact that it was a big opportunity for the Trinidadian to invest in his roots.
With approval coming from the Natural Resource Ministry regarding the company’s local content annual plan, the Ramps boss used this document to answer questions about the company allegedly bundling particularly, logistics services contracts and getting more work out of the sector than they should. He said the annual plan shows the company’s procurement information among others.
Outside of this the local private sector in a public missive spoke about foreign companies finding various avenues to include Guyanese in their businesses so their companies could be able to work here. The Private Sector Commission made the statement that bundling the services was denying Guyanese companies from accessing work.
Meanwhile, yesterday a senior private sector executive told the newspaper that the private sector has fought long and hard for the local content law and the secretariat to ensure that Guyanese are reaping most of the benefits. On the Ramps matter, he said that there is local content legislation and all companies must follow same. When asked about the Trinidadian with Guyanese heritage being used as the 51 percent owner, he said that the secretariat has the task of looking at all loopholes and ways that companies may try to get around the system and that they determine whether it could work or not.
Another very senior private sector executive also agreed that the Local content Secretariat is charged with vetting these companies who say they are local content; and given what is taking place, he believes the Secretariat is doing its job in vetting these companies. The executive noted also, that Ramps is not the only company denied the local content certificate. Outside of this, Ramps, it was noted with its vast experience and technology has strong operations in logistics and as such, oil companies may bundle broad logistics services and that one company would be providing all the logistics services, essentially denying Guyanese a slice of the pie.
The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU) which offers its services to oil and gas workers, said in an invited comment, that among the complaints they have received about Ramps is “Trinidadians getting priority over Guyanese.” And one vivid area was that workers were hired and placed to do the same work as Trinidadians but the foreigners were being paid more and benefiting more than locals who did the same tasks.
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