All is not well at the state-owned Gravel Concrete& Emulsion Production Corporation.
A former top official of the company called THE NEW TODAY to make a number of complaints over the running of the corporation since the change of government on June 23 especially the manner in which items are purchased and the manner in which Accountant Sherry-Ann Murray was removed from her post as acting Manager.
He accused one of the present Directors of using his influence for Gravel & Concrete to purchase items from his private company including filing cabinets.
According to the former top-ranking member of the corporation, items are being purchased in violation of the policy from the Procurement Unit within the Ministry of Finance that at least three quotations should be solicited to do a comparison and analysis before making a final decision on where to purchase the item.
He charged that the Board of Directors is not responsible for the day-to-day running of Gravel & Concrete but merely setting policy as this is the responsibility of the Management team which includes the Manager, and Accountant.
When contacted on the issue, a senior member of the new Board of Directors acknowledged that Murray was appointed to act as Manager when the decision was taken a few days ago to ask her to proceed on leave; it was not done with any malice.
He said the Board decided that “things are not moving as fast … so we asked her to go back to her substantive position.”
He stated that there was a Round Robin among board members and the decision was taken hours later to ask Murray who had 56 days leave inside to proceed on leave to avoid a further accumulation of leave that was due to her.
“She has 56 days inside and another 30 days coming, making it 80-something days. In other words she has a back-up of two years leave inside and we asked her to proceed on leave – that’s it, a board decision,” he told THE NEW TODAY.
“It is the decision of any board to ask any worker that has accumulated leave to proceed on leave. I don’t see anything wrong with that. We didn’t fire her or anything – we asked her to proceed on leave,” he said.
The Board member was also questioned on allegations that the new Board had violated the process for awarding the contract to construct a shed for storing cement for Gravel & Concrete.
He said that the existing structure that is being used was found to be “in a very deplorable state” and the matter had to be addressed with urgency.
He pointed out that new Directors saw on file that the corporation had gotten quotations from three companies to construct the shed – one was close to a million dollars, another about half-a-million dollars and one was around $300, 000.00.
“So it’s not to say they didn’t have a quotation for more than a year, maybe bordering two years and nothing has been done.”
“So we got a quotation from a guy to build it (for) just above $200, 000.00 and we told him go ahead – let the gentleman deal with it.”
On the issue of conflict of interest involving a board member who owns a business that sells stationery and related items, the senior Board member said: “As far as I know Gravel & Concrete has been dealing with (name withheld) a long time, years now – buying stuff from him so we did no cherry picking or so about what they bought.”
As far as he is concerned, the board member “has a company that provides stationery and other things and he has been dealing with them (Gravel & Concrete) a very long time.”
“It’s not just to say off the blues, off the hat they bought something from him,” he remarked.
According to the Board member, he has seen records to show that every month the state body has been purchasing from the business enterprise and long before the new Congress-appointed board took over the running of the entity.
“At least every month he gets a cheque from Gravel & Concrete and that is long before the present (NDC) administration came in.”
“So, it’s not anything new like they just started dealing with (name withheld). They have been dealing with (name withheld) for a number of years now – so that was in train already.”
“So if he has a product and they need a product and they want to buy it from (name withheld) or anywhere else that is at management level and I won’t have to put out a tender to say we have to buy a cabinet and so on – that is a decision that management makes.”
“And if (name withheld) who they have been dealing with has Cabinets and they want to purchase it, ok, go ahead, I don’t have a problem with that.”
“I am kind of surprised that issue came up about a cabinet. I know (name withheld) deals with that and they have been dealing with him. So if they want to buy one from him I don’t see anybody giving anybody a directive (to buy or not to buy from the Board member).”
“That is a matter for Management and the Procurement unit within Gravel & Concrete to handle and deal with and not the Board of Directors.”
The Board member who is being cited for conflict of interest is known to have been appointed as part of a 3-man transitional committee to take charge of specific operations including the appointment of a new manager by early in the New Year.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Gravel & Concrete has received about 17 applications for the vacant post of General Manager.
According to the senior member of the board, the new Directors intend to take decisions as they have a mandate to get the corporation up and running and as “a lot of things need to get done.”
He alluded to the number of parts on order for trucks, and that “things are crumbling around us” and that “things are just falling apart” and the board has an obligation to take decisions to arrest the situation.