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Workers of the Guyana
Power and Light (GPL) staged a short protest last week. This was to bring attention to issues such as salary increase, and decision making style of GPL executive management and Board. Those GPL workers are represented by a union. A representative of the union sits on the GPL Board, and the workers’ matters should have been resolved without them having to resort to protest action. Nonetheless, what Guyanese learnt within the following days is troubling and requires correction.
GPL seems to want to give the impression that it cannot afford to increase workers’ pay. It is the same GPL, at the Board level, that has authorised the purchasing of two brand new vehicles for its upper management. Those vehicles are said to be worth no less than $12 million each. GPL would find it difficult to explain not having money to increase workers pay but could find an astronomical sum, of reportedly no less than $24 million, to buy two new vehicles.
These vehicles are not purchased for the operational requirements in the field but for the directors to drive around. Justification could be seen purchasing vehicles for frontline operations that has a requirement to deliver optimum service to the customers and bring in revenue. These two new vehicles are not for that purpose.
There could be no suitable explanation for the extravagance other than the GPL Board does not care. It is even more insulting to those who depend on GPL for a service, which continues to deteriorate, that those vehicles were purchased from the business of one of the Directors of the Board, who is none other than its Chairman. This is clearly a conflict of interest. According to Oxford language, conflict of interest is “a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.”
It also suggests that some who are given the privilege to sit on State boards to guide decisions in the interest of the organisation and country, are looking out for their interest not the company’s. Integrity is fast fleeing the public sector. This is not healthy for accountability and good public governance. Prime Minister, Mark Phillips, who has ministerial responsibility for the GPL should say something about this matter. It reeks of inappropriateness and a no comment or silence from him is not an option.
The other issue of a 12 percent increase in pay to directors smacks at disregard for the ordinary workers who are asking for a pay raise. It matters not whether the sum will be paid but that management could have even thought about wanting to make this payout. GPL is misplacing its priorities. Something is wrong at GPL and there needs to be an investigation soonest not into its financial management but also the service it provides to society which is less than satisfactory.