Call Center Scandal


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Details are beginning to emerge about a massive government 'bail-out' of millions of dollars owed to Cable & Wireless by Call Centres Grenada Inc, a company set up by a close relative of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell. The information was release amidst growing debate in the country about the true shareholders of Call Centres.

 When the company was established about four  years ago, the shareholders were identified as the Grenada Government and a group of private individuals including Denis Campbell, Neville Calliste and Leroy Baptiste. The Mitchell government guaranteed $10 million as start up funds for the company to purchase equipment including computers for use by Call Centres. It was reported that government controlled 60 percent of the shares and the private individuals the other 40%.

 In the face of mounting financial difficulties, the Mitchell government also extended a two million overdraft with a local commercial bank for use by the company. In a recent appearance before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, the Accountant-General, Patricia Antoine informed the members that the overdraft bank facility was being serviced "from the operations of Call Centres." Antoine is also the Chairman of Call Centres and gets a monthly stipend of $1600.00.

 GRENADA TODAY has obtained the copy of a confidential letter which Cable & Wireless sent to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine on a multi-million dollar  controversial dividend transaction that took place in December. The document showed that Call Centres was owing Cable & Wireless over EC$4 million dollars for use of its telecommunications service.

 It indicated that the Mitchell government turned over the EC$4 million owed to the State in dividend for the State's 30% shareholding interest in Cable & Wireless back to the British multi-national company to pay off the debt owed by Call Centres. "We wish to express our appreciation for the approval given to the offset against amount owed by Call Centres Grenada Inc and therefore attach receipts for the sum of EC$4, 272,741.83", the letter from Cable & Wireless Financial Controller Yvonne Mancini.

  A source close to the Ministry of Finance told this newspaper that the transaction looks rather suspect since there is no record to show that the million dollar dividend payment from Cable & Wireless reached the Consolidated Fund. He said that the transaction looked rather "strange and suspect" since any monies due to the Government of Grenada, have to pass through the Consolidated Fund in the interest of accountability and transparency.

 "This looks rather strange to me. This is much different to other transactions which government might do from time to time with other companies like GRENLEC."

 "Take for instance GRENLEC, they might give us a cheque for monies owed to us for duties, and we might turn around and give them a cheque for the same amount of money because we owe them every month for electricity bills for ministries. "This is a straight exchange of cheques between us and GRENLEC but it is recorded in the Ministry of Finance since the funds would have passed through the Consolidated Fund for accounting purposes."

 "This thing before me raises a whole lot of questions which I think the Minister of Finance (Anthony Boatswain or the Permanent Secretary (Timothy Antoine) and the Accountant General (Patricia Antoine) should be called upon to answer. "They should be in a better position to explain to the people how monies that should end up in the Consolidated Fund were used to pay off the debts of Call Centres Grenada.

 As a public service, GRENADA TODAY reproduces the Cable & Wireless letter on the $4 million transaction and other documents from the telecommunications company outlining the huge amounts of monies owed to it by Call Centres.