Dear Editor,

I have noted that the infallible ones are at it again. This time, President, Irfaan Ali was reported to have said “We inherited a system that was in total collapse. We are rebuilding that system.” This is in response to the totally abysmal performance by Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL).

I wish to note however, that nothing can be further from the truth. As I have done on numerous occasions, permit me the opportunity to restate the facts once again.

With respect to the management of GPL in 2015, the former PPP administration had lost confidence in the then CEO Bharat Dindyal, refusing to renew his contract. In a report prepared by GPL’s board, dated December 22, 2014, his performance was listed as “below expectations”.

On assuming office, the Coalition administration’s appointed board of GPL launched an international recruitment exercise, spearheaded by the internationally renowned firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers Advisory Services Ltd. After extensive interviews, that firm recommended the appointment of Albert Gordon, a Caricom national with extensive experience in the power utility sector.

On assumption of duties, Gordon commenced reorganizing and revitalizing the then ailing company. On its return to office in 2020, the PPP dismissed Mr. Gordon with immediate effect, and returned the previous “below expectations” CEO, talking about doing the same things, yet expecting different results.

With respect to the generation of power, a report from GPL’s board on the performance of the pervious CEO stated that, “GPL has over the last few years written off over 10 generator sets which were destroyed due to poor operation, catastrophic failure due to the lack of proper maintenance, and fire.” That was the status of the GPL generating capacity in 2015.

During the next four years, GPL under the coalition administration procured 63MW of brand-new generating sets, increasing the generating capacity of the company by 50%, a never-before-seen expansion in generating capacity in such a short period – with no oil revenue. Contrast that to the PPP’s four years, the company has procured 17 third-hand containerized sets of unknown quality and procurement methodology. Five months after this purchase, only four sets are operational, it is understood the remaining sets have several defects, which has rendered them ineffective – a prime example of poor technical management.

It should be noted as well that the above-mentioned GPL’s board report stated that there was “low utilization of planned budget; poor planning” thus resulting in frequent blackouts due to the lack of maintenance to the company’s Transmission & Distribution infrastructure.

Editor, I wish to bring to your attention that during the Coalition’s tenure, 300km of high voltage transmission lines were repaired or upgraded, 16km of new feeder cables were installed, the express feeders on the Demerara Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) were completely upgraded, a new submarine cable linking Vreed-en-Hoop and Princess Street was installed, 486km of new secondary distribution lines were installed, 19km of secondary distribution lines were upgraded, 87,717 service lines were replaced, 502 new transformers were installed and 2,292 defective transformers were replaced. Four years on, with five times the annual budget, GPL has not achieve a quarter of these milestones.

In 2018, via the Ministry of Finance, Guyana gained access to a US$900M line of credit from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). The first request to utilize these funds was a loan of US$110M for GPL to construct new substations, a new additional transmission and distribution network, as well as upgrading the existing power infrastructure. As expected, on assuming office, the PPP canceled the loan application without reason. Without a doubt, if this application was allowed to progress to implementation, several of the challenges now facing GPL would have been eliminated. This is yet another example of the government throwing away the baby with the bath water in the name of politics.

Editor, the status of our power sector remains a matter of national concern. I would readily admit that by June 2020, there were several outstanding challenges still to be resolved, however, the company was heading in the right direction with a very limited budget. With Guyana’s increased resources and the importance of this sector to our national development, one would have expected some increased momentum in fixing GPLs problems – in contrast, significant progress has all been reversed in recent years.

Instead of seeking to address these challenges, the PPP administration tries to hide its mismanagement of the sector. It has sought to place all its eggs in a single basket, the elusive Wales Gas-to-Energy project, which on its current trajectory, is likely to become another project falling significantly short of promises and expectations.

Editor, let me state clearly that no amount of plasters, fluff, bluff, fancy speeches and high-priced PR, will move GPL forward. It is clear that the PPP Government is sailing up a creek without a paddle.

Solving Guyana’s problems requires all citizens, creating a meritocracy and facilitating a real democracy.

David Patterson


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