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Stabroek News

Another twist to price gouging fiasco
Consumer Affairs Commission reinstates Raymond Pryce

published: Thursday | December 23, 2004

Damion Mitchell, Staff Reporter

THE CONSUMER Affairs Commission (CAC) has reinstated Raymond Pryce, its director of information, research and communication, who had resigned following a faulty survey which wrongly accused several supermarket retailers of price gouging.

The incident had severely embarrassed the government, particularly the Minister of Commerce and technology Phillip Paulwell, who has since apologised to retailers.

In a statement yesterday, the CAC said at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, it received a letter from Mr. Pryce "expressing regret" that he did not take a more proactive approach in securing the integrity and veracity of the information provided for the survey.

The statement said the CAC board was of the opinion that the 'apology' from Mr. Pryce was a 'positive development', providing a basis for authorising the withdrawal of his letter of resignation.

But Mr. Pryce told The Gleaner last night that he did not apologise to the CAC Board. "It (the statement) is very different from the letter I wrote," Mr. Pryce said.

He said he was asked by an individual "beyond the board" to write a letter withdrawing his resignation and that he was asked not to speak to the media on the matter as a release would be issued to settle the issue. However, Mr. Pryce said
he was compelled to speak, as he was being misrepresented.

Key sources say Mr. Pryce was asked to write a letter withdrawing his resignation by Information Minister Burchell Whiteman who was also part of the four-member committee that was set up to investigate the events that had led the government to wrongly accuse 18 retail suppliers of price
gouging.

The committee presented its report on Monday, which exonerated Mr. Pryce.

CORRESPONDENCES

Earlier this month, The Gleaner had obtained several correspondences between Mr. Pryce and Dolsie Allen, the CAC's chief executive officer in which Mr. Pryce warned that the integrity of the commission would be seriously threatened if the survey was made public.

Yesterday, Norris Crooks, the board chairman of the CAC, confirmed that he did not request a letter from Mr. Pryce withdrawing his resignation.

He further said investigations at the commission had revealed that "a young man" was responsible for the errors in the survey. Mr. Crooks would not reveal the name of the employee but said actions were being taken to prevent a recurrence.

He also said no action would be taken against Dolsie Allen, the CAC's executive director, despite the fact that she was informed that publishing the survey could hurt intergrity of the Commission.

Contacted yesterday, Minister Paulwell, who has portfolio responsibility for the CAC, said he was unable to speak as he was at a Christmas treat presenting gifts to several elderly people.

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