By BRYAN LUVENA
Former employees and some current employees of the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) have submitted a forty (40) point complaint to the Office of the prime minister against the current SIPA CEO Mr. Eranda Kotelawala and Board chairman Johnny Sy.
A letter cited by this paper to the Office of the prime minister by the former SIPA secretary Charles K Ashley on behalf of the former employees and some current employee’s on 27th February states that the root cause of the complaints is the illegal and fraudulent elevation of Johnny Sy in January 2019 to the deputy chairman of SIPA for three years commencing December 2018 to December 2022 and his further subsequent elevation to be the chairman later in 2019.
The group in the letter requested the two responsible Ministers of Finance and Treasury and Ministry of Infrastructure development to address their grave concerns and save the important State-Owned Enterprise (SOE).
“As you are very well aware of all candidates for directors to SOE’s must apply in writing to be considered for appointment by the accountable and responsible ministers.
“In the case of Johnny Sy, his term as a Board Director expired at the end of January 2019 instead both Johnny and CEO Kotelawala conspired to delay all further appointments of SIPA Board Directors throughout the year 2019 and continued to the run the affairs of SIPA as if it was their family business and not our leading SOE,’’ the letter claimed.
They also stated that there is a grave concern that the board of SIPA is not well constituted but worst still it’s Dysfunctional and exercises no control over the activities the CEO and least the of all the proper running of SIPA.
Listed below are the forty collective concerns of sacked workers, retired workers and some of the existing members of the SIPA.
- Eranda Kotelawala was not properly screened for the authenticity of credentials before being chosen for the job. Even the very chairman who presided over his selection has on several occasions phoned the sacked workers to enquire about how soon it has going to be before he is terminated.
- There are high suspicions that the credentials he presented when applying for the CEO position are bloated and not genuine.
- He neglected to learn the system of running SIPA from the very first instance and therefore decided to foster his own agenda.
- His overseas trips are way over the top too many, and not sanctioned by the Board.
- On travelling overseas, only the flights to Brisbane are booked here in Honiara. Onward journeys from Brisbane are booked and paid for using his private credit card. These onward destinations are not planned and documented therefore he has no way of justifying costs. He would claim refunds on his return to Honiara.
- On overseas trips, he would travel to an undisclosed destination for purposes not sanctioned by the Board.
- He would take his wife on most of the overseas trips although his contract only allows him to do so only on annual leaves.
- He mismanages SIPA funds to the extent that the draw down during his period of management had depleted reserves from hundreds of millions to mere eight digit figures.
- He never issues staff notices on being absent from the Ports and has never written tour reports like previous CEO’s have done.
- He would not take EMT staff to important meetings so as to share management roles and responsibilities and so allow for participatory management.
- He never convenes management meetings like all other CEO’s used to do. In the past three years, there has never been any meeting and there are no minutes of collective decisions on work plans, operation plans, and development plans.
- On occasions that he would meet with staff; either as a group or as individuals, he would be the only one speaking, giving absolutely no chance for reciprocity. He is a verbal extravagance yet writes very little, leaving large voids in the files of what he is doing or what he planned.
- He bypasses EMT and deals directly with two favored staff with whom he exudes free reign to exercise whims at the expense of laid down procurement procedures.
- He was observed giving instruction to staff to release the control box of the current chairman’s side-lifter without formal customs release payment of duties and goods tax. In the 90s, the operation manager was sacked for the very same offence.
- He claims credit for all the works that have been done by previous CEO’s yet accuses them of not having done their job properly.
- He neglects as unimportant the repairs of Jetties, dolphins, mooring buoys and other navigation aid infrastructures. Instead, he is placing emphasis on building a FLAG POLE at the demise of the iconic Habours Office Building
- He instructed the demolition of the Habour Masters office building without following the laws pertaining to the building Bye-laws. The building is new and is an iconic land mark. It has statutory significance.
- He fails to prioritize and implement additional jetties constructions that were planned since 2011.
- He neglects to address outstanding land issues on the foreshore between SPOL and the central market. Low Price Enterprise, Hyundai Mall, A Hatanga Building and Central market are illegally occupying SIPA lands.
- He neglected to restore the market Jetty.
- HE terminated the employment of 75% of EMT without following proper exit strategy fro management staff and proper succession planning.
- There is a disparity in his treatment of terminated staff. Some were terminated with a package some were let go with nothing.
- The recent termination of EMT members can be construed as sackings because he opted to pay them lieu of notice. In the past long serving persons retired with ample notice to allow them to prepare for life after SIPA.
- He occupies his office less than 50% of the time, meaning he is not an effective manager and does not earn the hefty salary that he is getting.
- He does not have a definite staff plan. He keeps increasing staff numbers resulting in disguise unemployment, a situation of overmanning where there are too many workers without there being enough to do.
- On the PMTA meeting in Samoa, he turned up late for the meetings and left early and did not have the part to play in winning the conference hosting for SIPA yet he returned to Honiara to boast about having the campaign to solicit the conference for SIPA. He pocketed the overseas tour allowance and went somewhere else.
- He is an alien and maybe a security risk in the context that he maybe sabotaging the economy of the Solomon Islands similar to what Collin Yow had done. The implication of these is embedded in the ISPS code.
- The current chairman of the Board is also an alien and maybe a cohort of his for the same reason.
- Furthermore, the current chairman of SIPA is illegal, having not been appointed in accordance with the SOE regulations.
- In the recent past, the appointment of Harry Kuma as chairman was similarly illeagal.
- In fact, all Boards of SIPA since 2012 have not been appointed in accordance with the SOE regulations.
- The Board was handicapped and without a quorum for the past 12 months. No meeting could have been legally convened and consequently, no binding decisions could have been made possible.
- For the ongoing reasons, the Board was incapable of exercising control over the CEO for the duration of his current contract. There is also been a transition of Board membership during the period which left a lot of unfilled gaps in the highest decision process of SIPA.
- The strength areas required for knowledge-based credentials are not well presented in the composition of membership. The callers, assessors, selectors and of the Board members are incompetent or ill-equipped to make the choices.
- There is an absence in ports industries professionals in the SIPA Board; no mariners, no maritime infrastructures specialists, no maritime transport representatives, and no port operational specialist. International Ports operation is a knowledge-based industry and requires inputs from these specialists at the highest decision-making level.
- There was a strategic plan written to guide and direct the conduct of businesses at SIPA comprising seven volumes written by a team of Singaporean Consultants following a recommendation of the scooping study by ABD. This has set aside and never acted upon.
- Without the knowledge and sanction of the Board and EMT of SIPA or the Western provincial government, the CEO colluded with ABD to take Noro Port through development plans that were hatched outside the normal chains of approvals.
- The CEO lacked sensitivity is dealing with the Premier of the Western province resulting in adverse publicity and the probability of sour relationship. Past CEO’s always exercise courtesy to the host government of Noro Port.
- The purchase of the Scanning Machine is questionable whether it is the best value for money and was competent assessor involved in its selection as in accordance with ISO 28,000 (international standard for supply chain security) and ISO 9001 (supply quality management)
- Eranda Kotelawala is not an appropriate person and should be terminated forthwith.
Attempts to sought comments from the Ports CEO were unsuccessful, Monday.