Mon | Oct 15, 2018

AEROTEL counts losses - Rigorous controls now in place around CUG

Published:Thursday | July 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Armstrong

Since having to fork out almost $2 million in telephone bills for a former chairman months after he had demitted office, the management of the state-owned Aeronautical Telecommunications Limited (AEROTEL) has said that rigorous controls are now in place around all aspects of its closed user group (CUG).

"... The recent limit [was placed] on the CEO's and chairman's phone bills of $40,000 per month, where before, there was no limit on those two categories," AEROTEL General Manager Howard Armstrong reported.

"We've adopted that and have rigorous controls around people leaving and recovery of the phone [and] not leaving it only to their immediate supervisor. We're getting [the] informational technology and human resources departments involved as well," he told members of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday. "So we are confident that there will be no reoccurrence of this sort of lapse," he added.

 

Breakdown in controls

 

Earlier, Armstrong had argued that a breakdown in internal controls was the primary cause of the occurrence.

He explained that the then general manager left shortly before the chairman demitted office in February 2012, and he was the one who would normally interact with the chairman to recover the phone.

Additionally, Armstrong stated that a new contract with its mobile service provider came into play, and under that contract, the new chairman and all subsequent chairmen have not had a phone.

"So this phone was assumed by the finance people to have been in the use of the new chairman, but, in fact, the new chairman did not have a phone - declined to have a phone - So there was a breakdown. These charges were very modest - $1,000, and so on - for several months.

"But then over a year ... it spiked tremendously, and that's when we realised it and cut if off immediately. These were roaming charges from far-flung places - The Philippines and all sorts of places - and those charges tend to come in several months after because they're billed in a foreign land and then transferred to our service provider.

"So the second month, on recognising these high bills, they were cut off, but then there were residual coming in for two further months before it was completely truncated," Armstrong explained.

In June 2016, after incurring legal fees of $250,000, AEROTEL abandoned moves in court to recover the money, indicating that the company had exhausted all options to collect the sums and further pursuit through legal processes would be futile.

Armstrong argued that the former chairman, Maurice Henry, could not be found.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com