Report by Edwin Genoway, Jr - [email protected]
Sinoe County – The operations of the Golden Veroleum Liberia, an oil palm concession company operating in Liberia is laden with several issues arising that could cause the company's operations to shut down.
FrontPageAfrica has gathered that the company’s operations are currently stalled due to the resignation of five expatriates who served at the company’s five farms in Grand Kru and Sinoe Counties.
In a joint communication, the managers mentioned lack of cooperation, and gross disrespect allegedly meted against them by the CEO, Burham Telasman in the presence of their subordinates.
On August 1, 2017 GVL management wrote the five foreign managers indicting them on the same accounts of not being effective in managing GVL farms in the region.
The GVL Management in its communication accused all of the seven farms expat managers of not updating the maintenance plan or work program on a daily basis, failure to monitor subordinates daily work activity, maintain written records and reports, and failure to follow up on work duties assigned to field operation teams.
Of the seven that got warning letters from the management, five disagreed with the management’s accusation and all of them jointly responded and wrote to management on August 04, 2017, three days after management wrote them.
The first paragraph of the managers’ letters in the possession of this paper reads:
With regard to the management’s warning letter issued to us namely Uthama Seelan Kandasamy, Roberto Hutapea, Sukino Suwito, Vijay Dalvi, Jaya Kumar, Fachry Batubara and Dulhadi Rasban on 1st of August 2017, we the undersigned would like to strongly refute the charges mentioned in the said letter.
Contrary to management’s accusation of farms managers not updating on a regular basis, the five managers refute that and wrote: “We would like to stress here that these program is actually updated on a regular basis in hard copies in all the Sinoe farms and available upon request.”
On the issue of not monitoring subordinate’s daily work activity, and maintain written records and reports, the resigned expat managers said in their communication that:
“We have always maintained close coordination with our subordinates on regular basis and obtained written records and reports which have been submitted by the whole team these reports have been evidently compiled and forwarded by RC staff to the VPA staff and management team on weekly and also monthly basis.”
The GVL management in their communication accused the managers of failing to follow up on work duties assigned to field operation team. But in response the managers wrote saying:
“We maintain that we have always followed up on daily work duties assigned to our field operation team by all means possible, this is despite the communication difficulties due to poor network connections in most of the farms, there is no evidence of us not doing this at any time.”
The managers, however, described management accusations against them as witch hunt for unknown reasons.
“All of us have been blamed for the same reasons which we find are odd and looks more like a desperate witch hunt for unknown reasons, it was also said that the above failures, which we strongly refute, have caused the company to incur unnecessary losses for which again we disagree, this is in contrast to the managements’ quarterly report to the chairman which has stated that we saved cost in operations.”
Upon outlining issues affecting them in their communication, the managers have disclosed constant yelling of foul language among others which have plagued the company’s operations.
“We would also to take this time opportunity to bring up the following issues which have plagued GVL operation, constant yelling of foul language i. e ‘bangsat’, ‘motherf**ker’, ‘kurang ajar’, ‘goblok,’ etc by the CEO which is very unbecoming of him on us in front of others staff even including Liberian colleagues and subordinates, these have severely caused disrespect by them to us and generally to all expat managers which has damaged our reputation and managing capabilities.
“Not being providing solutions to problem or issues beyond our control, being scapegoat for managements’ own mistakes, managements’ unwillingness to listen to our suggestions or input for the growth of GVL, non-appreciation of the current management to some of our sacrifices during the Ebola crisis, total loss of confidence in the current managements’ lack of agronomy knowledge, lack of respect for our experience and expertise and the being morally discouraged to carry on any further under the current CEO, all of these plus many others have led to our resignation.”
FrontPageAfrica investigation has discovered that the resignation of the managers from the company and the many problems the company is currently faced with might lead to the premature departure and shutting down its operations in Liberia.
This paper investigation has discovered that over a hundred RB15 spray pumps on the various farms have broken down with management reportedly being unable to provide spare parts for repair.
It has also been discovered by FPA that the agronomy department of the company has become inactive due to pressure from management to carryout non agronomy related works mainly for government.
Sources within GVL have told FPA that agronomy operation team has always been asked by management to help out in maintaining government roads as well as rice, fuel and fertilizers delivery truck rescue operations.
“Our own bulldozers and excavators were pulled out from daily work on local processing areas to Paynes Town, near Zedrew to assist to pull out a total of fuel tankers, rice containers trucks, fertilizers containers and CPO containers,” a source from the agronomy department who spoke on anonymity disclosed.
Our source also stated that, “We have done this for four times extending over 60 days at operations’ cost, all these done in the request of procurement and logistics team heads and approved by the CEO,” our source noted.
FrontPage Africa investigation has revealed that there are many broken down tractors in all of the GVL operated farms which are not being repaired due to unavailability of spare parts.
It is reported that tractors not being repaired is due to management alleged failure to allow ordering of spare parts. According to sources on the farms, routine and repair spare parts ordering were initially planned to be done in September 2016, however management, due to their hastiness making decision has stopped CUPZ from carrying on with the order, instead, our source said it was asked to be put on hold till CUPZ is closed and then told to order Tanjuowon North which was designated as headquarters.
However, it is reported that the purchase request was rejected again by the management and told to place separate purchase request via each farm.
Employees on the farms and the resigned managers believed that the decisiveness by the management has caused massive delays, approximately nine to ten months, and to date what has been ordered is still not received yet.
Broken-down Kamaz trucks
The few trucks even though new, have constantly broken-down and getting immediate service under warranty from the supplier have failed miserably because the supplier was not a dealer but rather alleged third party opportunist who reportedly made the most from sale and now not obliging to warranty obligations.
Reports say the company obtaining immediate spare parts has also been difficult as procurement have not found a local vendor yet.
“This as we see it, boils down to managements failure to address the issues and find solution to help the operation but rather putting the RC and his farm managers under constant pressure to get them working without proper resources,” a source hinted.
FPA has discovered that the trucks GVL is using for their farming operations are about 20years old and constantly breakdown with different issues.
The company does not however have proper manuals for the trucks since day one and despite trying various ways of getting them have failed. Thus, identifying correct spare parts to be ordered is almost impossible.
The DAF trucks are also in three different models, therefore making it difficult to identify spare parts for each model.
“Procurement has not managed to find reliable spare parts suppliers locally or abroad. Local vendors, as hard as they are to be found, only supply substandard replacement parts made in China and Nigeria which don’t last long.
“Many times even as we try our very best to provide proper part numbers, these vendors supply non-matching spares and they have to be returned back and forth, even our machines have had to travel to Monrovia to look for suitable spare parts every time something breaks down,” another lamented.
Lack of Excavators
Sources with the company have revealed to FPA that the company lacks excavators, but this paper has gathered that the company has few working excavators at the farms which are very unreliable and constantly breakdown.
There are only three (3) excavators working at most servicing seven (7) farms’ requirements.
“The three machines also break down constantly and repair takes too long due to non-availability of spare parts and repair expertise, this why I said the company lacks excavators, if these problems that the company has been for times are not addressed by management, the company risks drawing down its operations in Liberia,” a source noted.
The Communication Manager of GVL Wilson Garpeh confirmed the resignation of the five managers but said it has no negative impact on the company.
He told FrontPage Africa interview in Monrovia that the resignation of the expat managers is an opportunity for Liberians to fill in the vacancy.
“We have Liberian who can fill in those gaps, of their deputies are all Liberians and they have been learning and they can take over those positions,” he noted.
He also confirmed that the company is faced with equipment challenges thus blaming it on the resigned managers who according to him did not properly inform management on the right spare parts needed; something he says led to the warning letter given expat managers prior to their resignation.
“We agreed that some spare parts of the company equipment are imported and some are bought here locally, the breaking down of machines should be blamed on the managers who resigned because they were the ones who are supposed to alert management but they did not until their warning letters were issued and they jointly rejected the management’s letter,” he said.
He said GVL is in Liberia for the benefit of all Liberians, saying it is regrettable why people will denigrate the image of the company that is feeding them.
He noted that with all of the challenges the company is face with, employees’ salaries are always on time, something he says Liberians should be proud of.
Garpeh noted that the company does not risk any withdrawal with the number of challenges the company is faced with.