By Abena- Rockcliffe- Campbell
Alexei Ramotar- son of former President Donald Ramotar-was paid over $32M to manage the now stalled $7.9B E-Governance project. Despite his handsome salary, young Ramotar, failed in job performance.
The calculated figure does not include his 22.5 percent gratuity that was made payable twice a year. Also, even though the young Ramotar was sent on leave last July, Kaieteur News was not able to confirm whether or not he is still receiving pay from the new government. Therefore, the figure only reflects the sum Ramotar received for services up until last July when he was sent on leave.
Ramotar’s inadequate performance has been highlighted in the recently released report on the forensic audit conducted into the project.
The audit was carried out by Chartered Accountants attached to Ram and McRae.
The auditors found that the project can still be salvaged; however, they noted that it was made victim to severe mismanagement.
Auditors reported that the Government’s management team consists of two employees who were hired by the Office of the President and one individual from the Ministry of Public Works.
Project Manager, Ramotar and Deputy Project Manager, Anil Singh were hired by Office of the President while Technical Advisor, Walter Willis was hired by the Ministry of Public Works which has since been renamed Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
Auditors noted that Ramotar was hired by the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic government on August 19, 2009. His father was not the President at that time, but he held the top position in the party—General Secretary.
Ram and McRae reported that the initial agreement stipulated that young Ramotar would be paid a monthly basic salary of US$2,000 along with bi annual gratuities of 22.5 percent of his basic salary.
However, on March 31, 2014, while his father was President, Ramotar was granted a salary increase carrying his basic salary to US$3,000 per month. It remains unclear what prompted the increase as the project was in a bad state at that time.
Ram and McRae reported that based on interviews conducted with eight of the contractors, the incomplete state of the Project was primarily due “to ineffective planning and management, and inadequate oversight.”
Auditors said that the contractors responsible for the installation of the fibre optic cables were not adequately supervised and; acts of negligence resulted in damage to fibre optic cables and equipment which were expensive to replace.
“Contractors expressed mixed views on the performance of the Project Manager Mr. Ramotar but were largely unanimous about the communications and other difficulties they experienced with Mr. Walter Willis, the Technical Advisor.”
It has been reported that Willis played a “significant management role” in procurement, approval of payments relating to civil engineering and monitoring the works linked to the installation of fibre optic cable from Lethem to Georgetown. However, the employment cost of Mr. Willis was not borne by the Project.
His role involved advising the Project Manager on all civil engineering aspects of the Project. As a Technical Advisor, Willis was responsible for monitoring the work done by the contractors under the E Government project. Auditors said that “It is therefore inescapable that Willis is partly responsible for the failure of the Project.”
Anil Singh, the Deputy Project Manager signed an employment agreement with the Government of Guyana on September 9, 2009.
The employment agreement specified that Singh will be paid US$1,800 per month along with bi annual gratuities of 22.5% of his basic salary. On March 31, 2014 Singh’s basic salary was increased to US$2,000 per month.
Singh was being paid to “assist” Ramotar in the execution of his responsibilities in relation to the overall objective of the Project.
Singh submitted his resignation during April, 2015.
Ram and McRae reported, “We requested the employees’ personal files from the Project Manager on July 15, 2015. Subsequent requests for the personal files were made to the current Project Manager, Mr. Floyd Levi and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, Mr. Omar Shariff. However, these files were not provided for our review.”
The E-Governance project contained two distinct components. The first was the E Government Dense Wavelength Division Multiplex (DWDM) Project, which involved the laying of a fibre optic cable from Lethem to Georgetown, and the second was the E Government (LTE) Project, which is a joint venture between the Government of Guyana and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd (China) for the construction of LTE sites and laying of fibre optic cables along the coast. The project costs were estimated at US$5M and US$32M for the two components respectively.
Ram and McRae pointed out that the project was not governed by any specific legislation.
Auditors also reported that Alexie Ramotar confirmed that the project was executed without appropriate project management documentation, including a Project Initiation Document setting out the purpose, objectives, scope, deliverables, constraints, assumptions, etc. Interim and final progress reports were also not available. The subcontractor for the second component, Huawei, prepared a project document but its scope is limited.
Auditors recommended that the Government make moves to undertake a technical evaluation of the Project and decide on the steps to complete it.
“Ram & McRae considers that notwithstanding the principle that sunk costs are irrelevant, this Project should be continued to completion. This will require a detailed Plan to Completion, a new management team to execute the remaining work and the employment of a Technical Expert to oversee the work done.”