Government has sacked the entire Board of Directors of the financially-troubled Gravel and Concrete Emulsion Corporation (GCEC).
In a not too unexpected move, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell announced the appointment of a new board at a meeting held last week Thursday with workers at the corporation.
The new Chairperson of the board is the island’s new Accountant General, Quinta Charles who is from the St. George North-west constituency of the Prime Minister.
Charles replaces Martin Thomas, who held a middle management position at the state-owned National Water & Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) and one who was considered as not sufficiently qualified to be put in charge of a multi-million dollar state enterprise.
A government insider told THE NEW TODAY that Gravel & Concrete is among several government-owned bodies that are in financial straits and came in for scrutiny from Cartac, an agency of the World Bank which called for the sale of many of them.
A government release said that the names of the other members of the board will be announced “in due course” by Minister for Infrastructure Development, Public Utilities, Energy, Transport and Implementation, Gregory Bowen, under whose portfolio the corporation falls.
The statement said that the Government of Grenada will be taking “definitive action” to improve the operations of Gravel and Concrete.
Prime Minister Mitchell told workers that government will be taking immediate steps to invest in the purchase of much-needed equipment for the corporation.
According to a well-placed source at Gravel & Concrete, most of the heavy-duty equipment at the enterprise have aged and constantly breakdown.
He spoke of a recent episode in which a van broke down and a truck that was dispatched to offer help also broke down on its way.
The release said that the Public Private Partnership (PPP) that was being pursued for the commercialisation of the state entity has not yet materialized and Government has decided to “take urgent action to improve operations”.
“Government has agreed that we need to put the corporation on the strongest footing possible to enable it to captalise on growth in the local economy,” Dr. Mitchell said.
The ruling New National Party (NNP) was known to be engaged in discussions with a Trinidad businessman who was interested in taking over the operations of Gravel & Concrete.
About two years ago the businessman was introduced to workers at a meeting that was attended by Health Minister Nicholas Steele, the then Member of Parliament for the Town of St. George.
The release quoted PM Mitchel as saying that the local economy is continuing to grow and that Gravel & Concrete must be positioned to capitalise on all available opportunities.
“The construction industry recorded a 40% increase in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. In the previous year, the increase was 18% and that was big but this year, the increase is massive. The corporation must be able to take advantage of these and other opportunities,” Prime Minister Mitchell told the workers.
While Government is doing its part to improve conditions at the corporation, the Prime Minister also underscored the responsibility of workers to improve the efficiency with which they execute their duties.
“This is serious business. We are making an enormous sacrifice using taxpayers resources to buy equipment. Workers have a fundamental responsibility to up their game; it cannot be business as usual,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting with the workers of the corporation was intended to provide an open forum for workers to share grievances in the presence of the Prime Minister, Minister Bowen, the outgoing Chairman of the Board, Martin Thomas and General Manager of the corporation, Wilfred Hercules.
According to a source, a worker who is known to be from the Prime Minister’s constituency led a barrage of criticisms against the past management including the current Manager.
He said that the corporation has been operating without a Human Resource manager for months and that a makeshift set-up has been put in place involving a person who lacks the requisite qualification for the position.
“What they have done is put a woman in charge of Human Resource in addition to her own work load and give her a monthly stipend to do the job. A lot of us don’t believe that she can really do the work”, he added.