Thursday, 24 May 2012

Algeria: Sonatrach DGs sacked for mismanagement

Sonatrach PDG Abdelhamid Zerguine dismissed the general directors (DGs) from two of its affiliates in late May, in a move which some regarded as a response to worker and broader social unrest in the Arzew industrial complex.

The directors of Société de Transport d'Arzew (Sotraz) and Société de Maintenance Industrielle d'Arzew (Somiz) were removed and both entities have seen their senior management reshuffled, reportedly for breaches of professional duties, poor management of internal conflicts and recruitment strategy. While Sonatrach has not officially pronounced on the reasons behind the sackings, local media cited company sources who argued that the decisions were merely taken to enhance managerial efficiency by nominating more competent individuals to top jobs. As there has been no police inquiry thus far, observers also think that the move could be a response to the inflamed political and social situation in Arzew, where workers' relations with the company have been poor for some time. Somiz and Sotraz are both headquartered in the country's largest industrial zone, which is a vital hydrocarbons terminal as well as a site for flagship petrochemical projects.

The fact that the corruption scandals of the past two years have focused strongly on the central management of the Sonatrach holding company has allowed its Arzew-based affiliates to stay out of the media spotlight. While the scale of managerial abuse in these subsidiaries is likely to be minimal compared to the alleged abuses committed by those senior officials disgraced in 2010, local reports of bribery, favouritism and illegal subcontracting have been signalled for years, and have mostly escaped justice.

According to industry sources in Arzew, this month's episode is due to the months-long discontent of local youth, to whom promises of priority in jobs and training were not fulfilled. “Sonatrach in Algiers is buying itself time again by scarifying the heads of the snake. The orders came from the governor of Oran [the wilaya that includes Arzew] in fears that protests could become politically costly,” revealed the source.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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