Thursday, January 18, 2018

EFCL board fires CEO


Two Governmental interventions have failed to save the job of Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) chief executive officer, Louis Frederick.

The Express understands that Frederick received his official letter of termination from the EFCL board on Wednesday around 2.50 p.m. Frederick was suspended by the board last November for failing to heed board directives.

According to EFCL documents, Frederick faced disciplinary charges for “misconduct in office by failing to follow direct instructions given by the Chairman of the EFCL on August 12, 2016”.

Frederick, according to those documents, did not present three letters of award to the successful contractors for the Granville RC Primary School, the New Grant AC Primary School and the Barrackpore Vedic Primary (APS) Memorial Primary School.

The November suspension was overturned by a four-member Ministerial team appointed by Cabinet to provide the EFCL board with guidance on its spending and other decisions.

The four Government ministers were appointed to oversee the operations at EFCL.

The Ministerial team is led by Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and includes Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Minister in the Ministry of the Prime Minister Stuart Young and Education Minister Anthony Garcia.

Claims of govt interference


In September when the EFCL board sought to dismiss Frederick for failing to implement a board decision, his lawyer said Frederick failed to do so because the chairman's directive lacked the supporting letter of authorisation from the Ministry of Education allocating funds for the project.

That suspension was rescinded by the Ministerial team.

At that time, EFCL insiders said that two lawyers attached to the Office of the Attorney General came to the EFCL office and demanded all documents relating to the decision to fire Frederick as well as all documents relating to the board mandate he failed to carry out.

The Express was told that the board had awarded a contract to conduct emergency repairs at the three schools and Frederick did not sign off on that board level award.

A second round of board meetings were conducted just before the Christmas holiday and once again it called for Frederick's head. Once again, the Express was told, a Government Minister called the board to attempt to overturn that decision.

This time however, the strength of the board superseded Government intervention.

Over the holiday period, all board members were asked to sign off on the decision to fire Frederick and yesterday, all board members were advised that Frederick would receive his letter of termination on Wednesday.

Despite this victory, the EFCL board is still claiming interference in the running of the State enterprise.

No favoured contractors


Speaking to the Express on the issue last month, Robinson-Regis dismissed the claims of interference and persecution.

“I can tell you that we, the Government, is not going to have a State entity not follow policy,” she said, adding, “ I am not saying that EFCL is doing that.”

She said the Government intervention did not indicate a lack of confidence in the EFCL board but there is no other State board that the team is expected to meet with “at this time”.

“We met with CEPEP some months ago and also now EFCL,” she said.

But EFCL insiders describe a much different atmosphere, saying the board was “summoned” to that meeting with the Government ministers.

“They were accused of not following the State enterprise manual and they were reminded that it is the Ministry of Finance that has to approve the EFCL procurement policy,” one insider said.

“It is almost as if they just want us to follow what they decide, who they decide to pay, without any decisions by the board,” the insider said.

“They asked why specific contractors were not being paid even though the board was following the advice from the audit on which contractor to pay,” the insider said.

Robinson-Regis denied that the Government has “favoured” contractors at the EFCL.

“We just got here, well we got here a year ago, but these contractors were being owed money by the EFCL.

She confirmed though, that the Ministerial team inquired about payments to contractors especially after an internal audit found that contractors were submitting invoices for work not done or exaggerating the completed work in order to get paid.

“We did have concerns that the contractors were not being paid,” she said.

Neither Piggott nor Garcia responded to calls or a response.