RAISED CONCERNS: Kurt Ajodha

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Board members question hiring at AATT

By Denyse Renne denyse.renne@trinidadexpress.com

PART II

The decision of former Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT) chairman Gerald Hadeed to award a $360,000 two-year salary contract for security without board authorisation to an individual was met with strong resistance by the then AATT board.

Hadeed, along with former deputy chairman Kurt Ajodha, Carlisle Marks, Susan Charles-Sylvester, Judith Baliram-Ramoutar, Maria Gonsalves and Ruthven Goddard were handed instruments of appointment in January 2012.

 Hadeed, who now holds the portfolio of Tourism Minister, is yet to respond to questions posed by the Sunday Express. For the past three weeks, the Sunday Express has been trying to contact Hadeed in an attempt to solicit his response on allegations during his tenure at the AATT.

Today the Sunday Express continues its series into decisions made by Hadeed involving security at both the Piarco International and ANR Robinson airports and lack of consultation with his board members regarding such issues.

 Sunday Express investigations have revealed that Ricardo Smith on April 23, 2012, wrote Hadeed outlining a job description and specifications for the post of security consultant. Part of the consultations included Smith implementing security plans at the airport and being exposed to all levels of the airports security. Part of the terms outlined in Smith’s proposal stated: “The AATT will engage Mr Ricardo Smith as a security consultant to carry out the services for a term of three years commencing May 7, 2012, and ending April 30, 2015, with a monthly salary of $15,000.”

Sources say such a position was never advertised nor discussed with the board and it came as a shock when board members learnt of the appointment via the media.

 In an interview published on May 13, 2012, Hadeed then chairman, referred to Smith as a man who has worked for the United States government.

“We have secured the services of a Trinidadian national who spent 13 years in security for the United States government.

He has just returned home and has a two-year contract to assist us in the development of equipment required that would ensure that this country has the safest airport in the western hemisphere. Our intention is to ensure that drug running and human trafficking are eliminated at our airports in T&T,” Hadeed had stated.

 According to documents obtained by the Sunday Express, Smith submitted a 25-page resume which was littered with participation certificates in several workshops.

By May 14 2012, Smith and the AATT contracted with each other for the provision of security services.

Investigations by the Sunday Express revealed that Smith was initially a Special Reserve police officer (SRP) attached to Special Branch.

During the period 1999-2012, Smith served as a surveillance detection coordinator.

Checks further revealed that Smith’s academic qualifications at that point were limited to  attendance at three secondary schools and his participation in various surveillance detection workshops. Nothing in Smith’s CV reflected that he successfully engaged in tertiary studies in the area of security management from an accredited institution.

On June 21, 2012, Baliram-Ramoutar wrote AATT corporate secretary Shannon Rudd. She also copied the correspondence to board members expressing concerns over the cancellation of meetings by Hadeed to address several issues including that of appointments.
Baliram-Ramoutar also expressed concern following a June 6, 2012, board meeting whereby management indicated the services of Smith were retained.

Baliram-Ramoutar listed her concerns as being that Smith is not an employee, “therefore management human resources did not procure the service. The services is in the form of a two-year contract. The contract is $15,000 per month, approximately $360,000 for the entire contract.”

Baliram-Ramoutar noted that the amount awarded in the contractual agreement between Smith and the AATT “is above Management Tenders Committee approval limit”.

“To date as promised no correspondence from the line minister has been received with regards to the approval of this consultant. In my humble suggestion this should have been approved by the board prior to the engagement.”

Sources say the board members during a meeting on September 6, 2012, reminded management- then acting general manager of the AATT Dayanand Birju, executive assistant, government relations Liana Ramsahai and deputy general manager corporate/legal adviser Haden Newton that the board had “no input into the hiring of this security consultant. This was a decision made by the chairman.”
 Those in attendance agreed that having reviewed the resume of Smith, he was previously a SRP and “not qualified to carry out the required duties in his contract”.

“The legal advisor to the line ministry also supported this conclusion and had indicated that it was evident that no due diligence had been conducted prior to engaging the consultant,” the documents stated. Hadeed was not in attendance at the meeting.

The board members, according to documents in the Sunday Express’ possession, reminded management that Smith’s engagement was not proper since there was no board approval.

The board members also noted, when this matter was raised at the board meeting with Hadeed, he indicated he would obtain Smith’s resignation but this was not done.

A decision was then taken to terminate the services of Smith on the basis of the absence of “proper process for the engagement, the dearth of Board approval and the absence of qualifications, expertise and the necessary skills by the consultant in the area of aviation security”.

The board members according to the documents, unanimously agreed that the chairman on his own volition had no authority to execute agreements without board approval.

Permanent Secretary Concerned
 
Among the appointments made by Hadeed without board approval were that of acting general manager Dayanand Birju, security/HR consultant Patricia Seepaul, human resources manager Akida George and deputy general manager, security, Kenth Quash.

On July 17, 2012, Hadeed sent an e-mail asking Birju to “reschedule the meeting with the board for Tuesday 24th at 9.30 am. Mr R Smith to present his findings on the state of security at the AATT.”

All members confirmed their attendance except Rishi Mahadeo.
 Six days later, a correspondence sent to Rudd and copied to board members by Ajodha stating: “I have determined that my attendance at the presentation would afford members of the board and other employees of the AATT to assume I am in support of the decision to retain the services of the recently appointed security consultant Mr Ricardo Smith. It must be noted that I continue to actively resist the said appointment.”

Ajodha raised three concerns. The first being “upon consideration of the qualifications of the consultant it can be concluded that the individual certainly does no t meet the necessary academic requirements for the post held. Further, one must consider the fact that he was an SRP and not a member of the TTPS.

Additionally the various certificates submitted by the consultant are no more than participation by himself in various workshops. There is nothing to suggest that the consultant is qualified in the area of security management or has performed security functions at any of the international airports, thereby rendering him experienced in that field.”
Ajodha went on to state the contract awarded to Smith was done so “without the knowledge or consent of any other members of the board save and except the chairman…additionally it is absolutely clear that the chairman contemplated the execution of the present contract on or before the 13th May as this was reflected in his interview, in the absence of discussions with any board members”.

 On July 24, 2012, a correspondence sent by Rudd to all board members indicated that Hadeed cancelled the meeting in which Smith was due to give a presentation and postponed it to a date to be announced.

Shortly after Ajodha tendered his resignation following a disclosure by People’s National Movement MP Colm Imbert over his lack of qualifications.

Part I appeared in last week’s Sunday Express.

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Security-measures-needed-264129401.html

Ricardo Smith responds

When the Sunday Express contacted Ricardo Smith on Friday afternoon, several questions were posed to him during a brief telephone interview.

Was the position for security consultant advertised? the Sunday Express asked.
“I don’t know..when you ask me if it was advertised. I know I applied for a position and I don’t know whether it was advertised,” Smith said.
 
Asked how he managed to apply for the said position, Smith said: “I think you are asking the wrong person that question to be quite honest.”

Who should the question be directed to then? the Sunday Express asked.
“The same person giving you information. I don’t want to be drawn into this, I am a professional,” Smith said.

Told that board members excluding Hadeed never knew of his appointment, Smith said he was not privy to such information.
 
Did Mr Hadeed ask you to submit your resume for this position? the Sunday Express asked.
Smith would not confirm or deny. Instead he said: “I was asked to apply. I was among a lot of persons for this.”
Pressed further as to who asked that he apply, Smith said: “I am not going to be drawn into this.”
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