THE Integrity Commission has referred a matter of allegations of misbehaviour in public office involving former chairman of state-owned Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), Omar Khan, to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard.
The action by the Integrity Commission is as a result of a complaint made by former chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of Mirror Group Publications Ltd (MGPL) Maxie Cuffie to the Commission, that Khan misconducted himself in public office as chairman of T&TEC, when he refused to advertise with the newspaper because of an article the newspaper had written questioning his qualifications for the post of chairman.
In a letter to Cuffie dated November 6, Integrity Commission Registrar, Martin Farrell indicated that the Commission had completed its investigation and was referring the matter to the DPP, in keeping with the requirement of Section 31 (1) of the Integrity in Public Life Act, Chapter 22:01.
Cuffie had complained to the Commission that on Friday June 10, 2011 the TnT Mirror in its weekday edition published a report that Khan had been appointed chairman of the T&TEC board based on qualifications submitted to Cabinet by the (then) Minister of Public Utilities Emmanuel George which stated that Khan was a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of the West Indies.
His qualifications also stated that he was the holder of a BSc degree in engineering and that he was a graduate of the UWI Institute of Business with a Master's in Business Administration.
Cuffie's letter to the Integrity Commission drew reference to the infamous Reshmi Ramnarine affair involving the appointment of Ramnarine, who had submitted false qualifications to secure the post of head the nation's premier security agency the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA) .
Cuffie indicated to the Integrity Commission that all journalistic ethics were complied with before the article was published, but that shortly after, Khan ceased advertising with the TnT Mirror.
He said prior to the publication of June 10, 2011, T&TEC, a statutory body which is fully state-owned and whose chairman is a person in public life, was a regular advertiser with the publications produced by the MGPL.
But he said, immediately following the article, threats were made to the newspaper, and T&TEC ceased advertising with the publications.
He also indicated that there had been no correspondence from T&TEC questioning the accuracy of the article or requesting any clarifications or corrections.
Cuffie further complained that he considered the action of T&TEC and its chairman as using the resources of the state company to protect the personal reputation of Khan and to punish the Mirror by withholding advertising because it published a story that did not serve the interest of the chairman.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Cuffie said, "I am gratified that the Integrity Commission has affirmed the validity of the complaint I raised on behalf of the Mirror newspaper in particular and the media in general. One can only hope that the DPP will prosecute this matter to the fullest extent possible to send a clear message that the freedom of the press is not to be trifled with and that taxpayers' dollars should not be used for political purposes."