GWI auditors also investigate ‘Boss’ over abuse of authority
The Internal Audit Department of the Guyana Water Incorporated Inc has launched an investigation into an abuse of authority by the entity’s Managing Director, Dr Richard Van West-Charles.
The auditors have since recommended that many of the changes instituted by Dr Van West-Charles be reversed.
The investigation was launched into the actions of Dr Van West-Charles after a litany of complaints and allegations had been lodged and these range through questionable employment practices, the suppression of internal audits, and retribution against senior employees, among a host of other infractions.
Dr Richard Van West-Charles
With regards the employment practices of the managing director, the entity’s Internal Audit Department (IAD) found that in instances there were no justification for consultants hired and that a position had in fact been created to facilitate the employment of an ‘unqualified’ Lear Goring.
Goring – since fired – was employed as a Debt Recovery Manager but did not have the minimum qualifications for the post and was being paid monthly $263,000 in addition to a $20,000 allowance.
Another of the hired consultants that attracted the attention of GWI’s IAD was a Billing Consultant employed by Dr Van West-Charles, on a temporary contract with a monthly starting salary of $525,000.
Investigations by the Internal Auditors found that both the Billing Consultant and Goring reside at the same Stevedore Scheme, Georgetown, address, in addition to the fact that there was no justification for the employment of neither of the men. With regards to Goring, the Auditors found that a correspondence addressed to the Chief Executive, dated October 15, 2015 sent by the Director of Human Resources is seen as justification for the approval of employing Goring; however, IAD believed this to be staged since the dates did not fall in ascending orders. According to the internal audit, Goring’s application was dated on October 8, 2015; the interview was done on October 9, 2015; the contract of employment was dated October 10, 2015; and he signed as accepted on October 12, 2015.
It was found too that not only did Goring not possess any working experience as it related to Debt Recovery, but GWI’s organisational structure did not provide for a Debt Recovery Department nor support staff.
The position was effectively created by the GWI Managing Director Dr Van West-Charles for Goring.
With regards Billing Consultant’s employment by Dr Van West-Charles, his contract was further extended to June 30, 2016 for which no justification was given except for the mention of “Mr (name withheld) services are still required.”
The position of Billing Consultant was found also not to be on the current organisational structure and was from the inception meant to be a temporary position since it was contracted.
He was originally employed in October 2015, days after GWI purportedly accepted Goring’s employment.
The Auditors had found too that there was no activity/consultancy report present in Billing Consultant’s file in order to determine if the objective and duties as outlined in the terms of reference were met.
The Billing Consultant was also employed by GWI under a separate contract to be paid $604,000 per month in addition to a cumulative $60,000 monthly allowance as, “Head, Strategic Planning, Evaluation and Monitoring Unit.”
This essentially means that Billing Consultant is in receipt of monthly remunerations of in excess of $1.1 million.
Another consultant contract was handed to another person at a salary of $512,000 despite the fact that the GWI’s Internal Auditors could find no records of certification to back up any qualifications claimed.
Another consultancy that gained the attention of GWI’s IAD was that of a security consultant whose position, earning him in excess of $700,000 monthly but was never advertised internally or externally.
Another ‘Security Officer’ – was also employed on contract by the managing director and earning in excess of $520,000 but the Auditors found that this position was not advertised, either internally or externally.
A number of other consultancies triggered by the actions of Dr Van West-Charles were also probed by the IAD which have since led in part to retribution being meted out to the department by the managing director.
According to internal communications (seen by this publication), Dr Van West-Charles in fact relocated the IAD to a DaSilva Street, Georgetown location in order to make room for the ‘Debt Recovery Department.’
On February 1 last the employees of the Internal Audit Department were instructed to vacate their office space in two days.
The building was found to be unsuitable and the internal auditors have since been forced to use the canteen area at Shelterbelt and documents were exposed to the open after which “access to records and persons became very difficult.”
The internal auditors were also reportedly subjected to constant abuse by Dr Van West-Charles leading to an adverse effect on staff morale.
The verbal confrontations reportedly stemmed from queries and findings they would have raised relating to Debt Recovery, Commercial Services areas and Human Resources audit checks.
With regards interference of Dr Van West-Charles into the operations of the Internal Audit Department, this publication has seen internal correspondences which point to allegations that on various occasions, Dr Van West-Charles had stated that he was very uncomfortable about the reporting lines and authority of the Audit Manager and staff.
The managing director reportedly instituted a system for the Internal Auditors where, “we started to experience lengthy delays to get records timely, limited access to people and information from auditors.”
All requests were made to be channelled through Dr Van West-Charles, who also “requested that he be kept informed on every stage of an audit and would like to screen the Auditees responses before same was disclosed to the IA staff.”
According to the correspondences seen, “The environment became similar to the one created by the previous Chief Executive (CE)…Found to be very hostile most of the times but we tried as much as possible to suppress and work around it.”
The IAD has since recommended an urgent review of GWI’s policies and procedures at all operational areas to reflect modern practices and the structural changes recently made.