‘Getting the job done’:
Questions raised over State company’s hiring practices
Asha Javeed email@example.com
Chairman of National Quarries (NQ) Mitra Ramkhelawan has said there is no conflict in the company’s decision to award a $1.3 million technology contract to Ted Peralta, who is also NQ’s project engineer consultant.
Peralta’s company Alternetica Caribbean, which was registered on October 5, 2011, beat out other competitors like Microsoft to secure the contract at NQ.
Apart from the servicing of the company’s technology needs, Peralta, whose job title is biomedical engineer at Trius Medical Sales and Services according to his LinkedIn profile, consults with NQ as a mechanical engineer.
Ramkhelawan yesterday defended his decision to retain Peralta as he was considerably cheaper than other consultants.
When the Express pointed out that Peralta worked at Ramkhelawan’s own company Trius Medical Sales and Services, Ramkhelawan said it was because he had such a good relationship with Peralta that he retained his services at NQ because he “wanted to get the job done”.
He also defended his decision to hire Sandra Fernandes, who also worked in his private company, to be the chief executive of NQ.
“I have a philosophy, you need to get the job done or get the ... out,” he said.
Ramkhelawan said he has been challenged with “theft” at the company and identified one employee as deleting information from the system as well as drawing up orders and billing wrongly for it.
To this end, he said he has surrounded himself with people he can work with to turn the organisation around such as Peralta, Fernandes and operations manager Delicia Maharaj.
He defended his hiring of Maharaj as the company’s operations manager despite many criticisms.
He said, “Since she has been hired the company has had the highest level of production and revenue.”
Ramkhelawan agreed to facilitate an interview with Maharaj and Peralta with the Express yesterday afternoon at NQ’s Arouca offices.
The Express was told that employee turnover at the organisation has become habitual. Staff spoke about the steady turnover of personnel while people were being hired on contracts with perks.
Last August, the Express understands that some 27 accounts were compromised and their balances from the system wiped out.
An employee was subsequently fired over this.
The files of several companies, which owed the company sums ranging from $250,000 to over half a million, were wiped out without a back-up system in places so money owed to the company was lost.
In a series of exchanges of letters between acting chief executive Sandra Fernandes and the employee, Fernandes noted that the reports on the matter, “clearly indicated that someone manually tampered with the indicator from one of the scales”.
Fernandes also noted “the serial cable coming from the scale to the computer was broken. Clearly, the cable was tampered with causing it to be broken. It should also be noted, that this cable is the cable used for the transmission of data.”
She noted: “However, the cashiers are aware of this but they refuse to reset the button on the monitor of the scale. If this is in fact correct, National Quarries Company Ltd would be losing thousands of dollars in revenue on a daily basis.”
For that episode, Ramkhelawan justified his choice to hire Alternetica to provide upgraded software for the company.
When Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine was shown the documents, after a function at the National Gas Company’s offices in Pt Lisas last week, he expressed surprise. He said he was unaware of such activities because he does not micro-manage his ministries. He gave an undertaking to have that and several other matters raised by the Express raised with the chairman.
When the Express followed up on whether a meeting had taken place, Ramnarine in an e-mailed response said: “Since we last met (September 7) I have not yet met with the Chairman. I propose to do so next week.
The Director of Minerals will also be in that meeting.”
Ramnarine acknowledged that he had received complaints from contractors about practices at the State company.
Staff noted that the chairman has at his disposal a company vehicle and a driver who was hired as an “executive driver” for his personal use. They also raised concern about what they described as micro-management by Ramkhelawan despite the company having a chief executive.
Ramkhelawan was not averse to this criticism. He explained that as long as his name appeared as the company’s chairman, he would ensure that it did well.
He said he was not like the rest of “half-baked under-achievers who remain stuck in mediocrity” but he intended for the company to turn a profit.
—Tomorrow: Aggregate challenges at National Quarries