Monday, February 2, 2009

There are grave inconsistencies in Govt.’s view of the operations of GuySuCo

There are grave inconsistencies in Govt.’s view of the operations of GuySuCo
February 2, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter from Donald Ramotar captioned “Guysuco will rebound”, and Ravi Dev’s article, “Sugar and Trust”, both of which were featured in Kaieteur News edition of 1st February 2009.

I would first like to record my appreciation of Ramotar’s impeccable integrity as a politician — a rather rare quality among some local politicians. However, I have difficulty in accepting Ramotar’s statement as carried in his letter that, “I know that the corporation has been accused of having massive corruption, but I have not seen any evidence of the kind of corruption being spoken about. GuySuCo’s accounts are audited annually. The audits have been done by some of the top accounting firms in the country. At no time did any of those audits show massive corruption in the corporation.”

When Ramotar’s statement is juxtaposed to what was said by the Minister of Agriculture at the press conference at the Office of the President on 14th January 2009, it amounts to grave inconsistencies. In the Minister’s statement that was carried in the SN, “Sugar shake-up”, on 15th February, he stated that: “Commenting on corruption in the industry the internal audits have pointed to practices of malfeasance and corruption. “… just talk to people on the ground and you will hear the most horrid stories.” Ramotar would need the Honourable Minister to share with him the audited reports that expose those practices of malfeasance and corruption, and to endeavour, as a member of the board, to spend more time “on the ground” to hear the same “horrid stories” of corruption as the Minister did. The nation therefore looks forward to the stance of the board of directors on those cases of “corruption and malfeasance” that are in the privileged possession of the Minister.

Secondly, Ramotar spoke about the establishment of an agriculture audit unit that picks up on issues of agriculture and report on them. This is quite a commendable decision by this board to establish such a unit; because, as an agriculture-based entity, proper checks and balances on the various operations ought to be an operational imperative. On the other hand, the Government, having recognised that the East Demerara Estates were performing miserably, appointed a commission of enquiry to investigate the causes behind such decline.

The commission having completed its investigation, it’s quite unfortunate that no pronouncement has yet been made, either by the company or the Government, on the report of the commission. I do recall sometime ago the chairman of the commission, Vic Oudit, disclosing to the media that mismanagement and lack of attention to the cultivation are the main reasons for the decline of the estates. If the company has failed to act on the report of a government-appointed commission of enquiry, would it, or the board, for that matter, act on the findings of the internal agricultural audit unit?

I wish to commend Ravi Dev on his article that’s very incisive and analytical on the marketing of sugar by GuySuCo, and for his mature and loyal stance by advocating that “the sugar industry is our national patrimony and we can ill afford to try to score political points in this hour of its crisis. We invite all political and civil groupings to get behind the new GuySuCo team as it is assembled.” Indubitably, the sugar company is at a cross road; its very existence is being threatened, and quite undoubtedly, it’s in this poor state at this time not only because of unfavourable weather conditions and strikes, but due also in some significant measure to poor leadership and management by Booker Tate. I agree with Dev that, in the current circumstance, if GuySuCo is to “rebound”, there cannot be room for political grandstanding and hubris.

I think management and the board need to take Dev’s views on the functions, or dysfunctional aspects, of the company’s marketing department on board. Like Dev and other commentators, I also believe that either some form of “malfeasance” is involved by GuySuCo, or it hasn’t done careful planning that caused the unfortunate and rather shameful decision to import sugar from Guatemala for local consumption.

Ramotar has certainly aroused the motivational instincts of the local managers when he admirably stated that he “believe that the vast majority of those people that I came into contact with are people of integrity and a hard working and dedicated group. The local managers are very capable, and all Guyanese should be proud of such a committed group.” The new interim board needs to garner the support of the local managers if its “turn around plan” is to be successful.

Finally, I wish to applaud the unequivocal optimism displayed by both Ramotar and Dev that the sugar industry would remain, and the immediate panacea for its survival, as Dev so eloquently says, is “the time for politics as usual is over”. Ramotar, Dev and other key stakeholders, therefore, would have to be on the same side of the divide for the sake of the survival of the sugar industry.

Parsuram Persaud


New York, USA

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