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PM Dickon Mitchell puts MNIB debts at EC$15.1 Million

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell - at the press briefing

Faced with a whopping debt of EC$15.1 million, the new Dickon Mitchell-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration has decided to wind up the operations of the state-operated Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) with effect from February 28.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister told reporters that during a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on February 6 a number of decisions were taken on the way forward for the financially-strapped company that was formed during the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution.

He said the Marketing Board has to be reformed and as part of the process, the entity will be dissolved over the next 6 weeks starting with effect from February 28.

He stated that the staff of MNIB will be severed and the government has undertaken the responsibility to pay the severance packages to the 94 employees on the payroll.

According to PM Dickon Mitchell, the hope is that “between February and September and if possible sooner,” the government will take a 2-pronged approach to address the reform of MNIB.

He disclosed that the current board, headed by Accountant Henry Joseph will be responsible for closing of MNIB outlets that do not need to be opened, and the mandate is for the Board to concentrate on the main River Road facility in order for the packing house to continue serving farmers during the next 6 months.

He spoke of the MNIB governing board getting specific instructions to wind down the operations on MNIB during the timeframe and that the government will also assume liability for the estimated EC$15.1 million debt that the Marketing Board is currently unable to pay to its creditors.

He said that the Ministry of Finance, which falls under the portfolio of the Prime Minister will lead the negotiations with all concerned parties including the banks that are owed huge sums of money.

In addition, he said that government will appoint a Technical Working Group so that during the 6-month period while the company is being wound up, will help the administration with the creation of a new entity to replace MNIB.

“We envisage that entity will be a Public Private Partnership between the Government of Grenada, private sector individuals, members of the public who may be interested and other stakeholders including farmers, farmers’ co-operatives who will be interested in investing in MNIB.

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Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell announced that at the end of the exercise, he expects the act that created the MNIB will be repealed and to have the assets of the state body transferred to the new company.

“Some of the assets of MNIB will be transferred to the new entity particularly the River Road facility,” he said.

He pointed out that an important aspect of the work of the Technical Group is to seek out the private sector participation in the proposed arrangement for MNIB.

“It is not a case where we are simple closing down MNIB with no prospects of a better future,” he remarked.

The new Grenadian leader is optimistic that the creation of the new PPP “will put the food industry in Grenada in particularly our farmers, our agro-processors and those who are interested in finding new markets in a better place to do so with the new entity.”

“We would expect that the new entity will focus on amongst other things the question of the storage, logistics, preservation, distribution and exportation of food and agro-processed goods within Grenada throughout the period.”

PM Dickon Mitchell told reporters that his administration met with the union representing the workers last Thursday and communicated the position taken on the future of MNIB.

The new Congress rulers had conducted a number of consultations on the Marketing Board between January and February aimed at finding a solution to the financially-beleaguered company.

An investigation into the operations of MNIB that was conducted by the Integrity Commission discovered several acts of wrongdoing and took the decision to refer some of the issues to the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) for a criminal investigation to be carried out.

There were reports of excessive spending by the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MNIB, Ruel Edwards on the purchase of first class tickets for travel with a female member of staff on the Grenada to Miami route.

Edwards is also known to have purchased one of the company’s vehicles for his own personal use.

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