Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cooper: Permanent secretary must explain absence from job

Head of the Public Service Reynold Cooper has written to Permanent Secretary Juliana Johan-Boodram asking for an explanation on her absence from the country and the job without his knowledge and approval. 

“I wrote to her today asking for an explanation and I asked that her explanation be submitted within seven days,” he told the Express.

Johan-Boodram, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, left the country on a four-day trip to Argentina to see the friendly football match between Angentina and Trinidad and Tobago. 

Meanwhile, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, has also been away from the job. Creed left the country hastily on emergency leave last month and was due back on the job on May 25. Creed will respond to all the reports in the media about his absence at a news conference today at 11a.m. through his attorney Peter Taylor at his Borde Street, Port of Spain,  chambers. 

Cooper who confirmed that Creed was supposed to resume work on May 25, said yesterday, “What he told me this morning was that he had submitted an application to the ministry for additional leave from May 24 to 30 and that the minister (Anil Roberts) had no objection to it. So I called the ministry today and I asked if they had it and they sent a copy to me. What they sent was a letter dated today indicating the minister had granted leave from May 24 to May 30,” Cooper said.

Asked whether he was supposed to be informed of all these things beforehand and without having to call the two permanent secretaries to enquire why they were absent from the job, Cooper said: “Yes. That is correct. It is part of the protocol that PSs, before they leave the country, inform me so I know what is in place for the performance of their duties when they are absent.” 

He said there would normally be an acting arrangement. Cooper said he needed to be informed because he in turn had to pass on the information to the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Finance. Cooper stressed there was no regulation which mandated the permanent secretary to inform him before going on leave or leaving the country. 

Asked how this would affect the possibility of disciplinary action, he said that was a matter entirely for the Public Service Commission. “(When I get) the response from Mrs Boodram, I would submit it to the Public Service Commission,” Cooper said.     

Cooper said any gift valued at over $5,000 accepted by a permanent secretary must be declared to the Integrity Commission. He said Boodram’s trip will fall into this category.