LIME pulls plug on police stations, clinics
March 2, 2012
LIME pulls plug on police stations, clinics

Up to press time Wednesday evening, a number of government institutions and departments were still without telephone service, after being disconnected by service provider LIME earlier this week.{{more}}

For about 24 hours, beginning Tuesday morning, calls could neither be placed from, or received by the LIME (formerly Cable & Wireless) fixed lines, at the majority police stations, health centres, schools, as well as a number of government departments.

Persons attempting to contact a disconnected line were greeted with the recorded message “Sorry, this number is temporarily out of order. We are sorry for any inconvenience;” while persons attempting calls out from the affected line would hear “Your account has been discontinued from making and receiving calls due to an overdue amount. Please contact our Credit Control Department at 4571091. Thanks for making Cable & Wireless your service provider of choice.”

SEARCHLIGHT called some of these numbers to verify, and while on Tuesday, the majority of police stations had been without service, by Wednesday evening, they had all been reconnected. Some health centres and schools were still without service up to late Wednesday evening, however.

The phones were reconnected, according to Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, following a conversation on Wednesday between him and LIME’s Country Manager Leslie Jack.

Gonsalves, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, also indicated that the Director General of Finance and Planning Maurice Edwards had informed him that the cause for the disconnection was a two pronged one.

“There are arrears. And he said that the problem of the arrears is a standard one, where the ministries have not put together their payments for the telephones.

“Secondly, he says there’s a big problem in respect of reconciliation of accounts; because I know this is an old issue that Cable & Wireless saying that the various departments owe them more money than they (the Ministries) are saying they owe them.”

Gonsalves said he could not say off hand how much money was owed to LIME, but mentioned that the telecommunications company also owes the government money.

“What is surprising to me, is that when I spoke to Jack about it (the reconciliation problem), Jack said that the first time he knew about that was this morning, when Jerrol Thompson (former Telecommunications Minister and present Special Projects Officer in the Prime Minister’s Office) had spoken to him about it… but this is something which I know the previous manager had been dealing with.”

Gonsalves acknowledged that last Friday February 24, he was informed that Jack had called the Prime Minister’s office requesting an appointment to meet with him.

He said that he enquired the purpose of the meeting, and was told that Jack want to speak about ‘government accounts’; he instructed that Jack be directed to Edwards.

According to Gonsalves, had the Country Manager been more specific with regard to his intentions, the matter would not have reached the stage of disconnections.

“If it’s a question of reconciliation… that’s a matter for the Director General of Finance and Planning… that’s not my function.”

“If you have a problem, tell me this is the extent of the thing; don’t just say you want to have a meeting dealing with accounts, because if I start to do that, I won’t have time to do the things I have to do.

“We have resources on hand to make payments. A series of payments were made in the week; but many times, the people in the public service are tardy. They don’t do their thing.”

Dr. Gonsalves said that he hoped that the situation would be sorted out with a meeting that was scheduled to take place between Edwards and LIME officials on Wednesday afternoon.

He said he fully understands that competitive pressure may be a factor in the telecommunication’s company’s decision to pull the plug on some of the government’s lines.

“I think it has to be some competitive issues, and people are using other types of technologies. I think that’s part of the problem.”

When contacted by SEARCHLIGHT, the LIME Country Manager declined to comment on the issue, except to say that “LIME has a responsibility to protect the integrity of all its customers, and do not wish to discuss the accounts of any of its customers.”