“Where is the efficiency?” Minister Rodrigues asks former GWI Managing Director

GWI featherbedding and terminations

Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues on Friday slammed former Managing Director of GWI, Richard Van West-Charles who recently justified the overemployment at the entity as a way of bolstering efficiency.
The increase of 700 employees within five years at the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) had resulted in overstaffing, to which the management took a decision to lay off some 157 persons. Van West-Charles, whose services were terminated with the utility company, claimed that the hiring was done to run the company more effectively.

Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues

However, Rodrigues pointed out that there was overlapping of functions within the network, putting a heavy financial strain on the company. She noted that most of these persons were recently hired in the customer service or the clerical divisions – some of which were performing poorly.
“He spoke about the hiring of these employees to make the company run more effectively. I want to put on record that we have said publicly that we are restructuring the company and that in aligning with our strategic plan, we do not have space for these employees because of the overlapping of functions and some of their employment is deemed redundant.”
She added, “The employees that are being terminated were hired as mostly customer service reps and clerks so they’re lower-level employees with no formal training and the customer service representatives were doing a very poor job because clearly they weren’t responding to the needs of customers. There was no benefit in keeping these people and it was putting a heavy financial strain on the company.”

Former Managing Director of GWI Richard Van West-Charles

She clarified that the only criteria used in dismissing these persons is “if they were serving the company or not”. Turning her attention to efficiency, the Minister noted that the company, under the leadership of Van West-Charles, was running in a bankrupt stage and issues faced by consumers across the country went unaddressed.
“When we took office in August 2020, GWI was bankrupt. The former Managing Director, Van West-Charles was operating GWI as through it was his personal bank account. The company owed $6 billion to GPL that had accrued under his leadership. We have already made public, several examples of massive fraud that we have unearthed at GWI. There was exorbitant renting of buildings. There was the Region Five office scandal…Minor leaks in 2020 was 8000. Today, it’s just over 100. Outstanding service applications was over 5000. Today, we’ve reduced that to 500. So, where is the effectiveness or efficiency that Van West-Charles is talking about? I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Last week, Chief Executive Officer of GWI, Shaik Baksh posited that the expenditure to facilitate the high employment rate was not sustainable. In fact, the costs had moved up from $96 million to $240 million – an increase of 140 per cent.
To compound the issue, the CEO highlighted that the productivity ratio has seen negative figures. He added that the entire apparatus of the agency is under review to increase productivity and cut costs. These persons were terminated in accordance with the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act.
Baksh, who had inherited the utility company in a poor financial state last year, had managed to reduce debts to suppliers from $800 million to $260 million from September to December 2020. By the end of December 2020 compared to the previous year, revenue also improved by over $1 billion.