Friday, January 19, 2018

NLCB workers call on chairman to probe director

Workers at the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) in Port of Spain are calling on their new chairman to investigate charges of misconduct made against NLCB director Camille Forde by former chairman Mitra Mahabir.

Employees say Mahabir accused Forde of "misconduct" and "unsatisfactory" performance before his departure from the organisation.

But they said the matter has gone quiet now.

Mahabir, who was appointed chairman of the NLCB in October 2010, left the board in December last year, after his contract period ended, but not before submitting a critical performance appraisal of Forde to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance and to the head of the Statutory Authority Services Commission, weeks before his departure.

And while Forde is still on the job, newly appointed chairman Winston Siriram, told the Sunday Express last Friday that he will launch his own investigation into the matter.

"I have seen no such report…I have heard of no such appraisal. This information is new to me and is the first time I am hearing about it," he said.

According to information and documents received by the Sunday Express, Forde and Mahabir—a former aircraft engineer with British West Indian Airways (BWIA) now Caribbean Airlines (CAL)—had been at loggerheads while he served as chairman of the NLCB.

On December 7 last year he submitted to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance Maurice Suite, Forde's annual performance appraisal for the period January 3 to November 30, 2012, along with five documents to substantiate his claims of what he termed as her "unsatisfactory performance".

He also submitted a copy to Forde and the Services Commission.

Mahabir, who told the Express that he stands by his evaluation of her as director viewed the "charges against her as very serious".

But he said, "That is a matter for the new board to deal with."

In his assessment of her, he said that she had "shown her inability to work effectively with a board" and "lacks the skills to lead a management team and staff to grow and develop the NLCB".

He alleged that the director "does not acknowledge written instructions from her superiors and has even committed a serious act of misconduct (letter attached)", and pointed to the unhappiness of the staff with her style of management.

Mahabir also recommended that she be sent for remedial training for a period of 12 months to assist with what he identified as her weaknesses.

Mahabir wrote to Forde on November 28, about a matter which he had serious concerns about and copied the letter to the permanent secretary.

He told Forde of his concern over her issuance of an unauthorised cheque to the tune of $90,731.50 to a board member Prem Samodee for his airfare and expenses to Australia to attend a lottery conference during the period November 26-29, 2012.

Mahabir said on November 13 he cancelled the cheque because the board's appointment had expired at the time, and therefore the board had no ministerial approval to authorise any such travel.

He alleged that upon cancelling the cheque, he wrote clear instructions on the attached voucher that Samodee was not to attend the conference at the NLCB's expense without ministerial approval, only to learn three days later that the cheque was reissued to Samodee.

Mahabir said he again intervened and had the cheque returned. He pointed out that in a strange turn of events, the entire file containing the cancelled cheque, returned cheque and related vouchers have gone missing.

"Somebody is not telling the truth and I will investigate this on Monday when I go to office," new chairman Siriram told the Sunday Express.

"That information must be contained in board minutes…it would be very strange that these things occurred and are not in the board minutes," he said.

For her part director Forde was adamant last Friday that she knew nothing about any appraisal.

"I am not aware of any such complaints against me. I have never sat with the chairman to do an appraisal because in the public service, appraisals are done with the employee present.

"I can tell you that I have never signed any such appraisal and I have never been a part of such an exercise," Forde said.

But contacted again yesterday, Mahabir said he followed the rules outlined to him in doing Forde's appraisal and he stands by what he wrote.

The NLCB, which is a statutory board under the Ministry of Finance in 2011 collected $1.7 billion in revenue and paid out $1.2 billion in prizes, including creating 12 new millionaires through Lotto Plus.

The NLCB was established on August 12, 1968 by an Act of Parliament to promote and conduct national lotteries, and offers several games including Play Whe, Pick Two and Cashpot.