Tuesday, February 20, 2018

False Papers Probe

Minister awaiting report on audit that discovered ‘discrepancies’ in credentials of officials at Health Authority...

Interview files have gone missing following the discovery of massive irregularities during an audit into recruitment at the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA).

The misrepresentation of academic qualifications relating to the hiring of the chief operations officer (COO) Wayne Oudit was among the findings. 

According to the audit dated December 19, 2013 and conducted by internal auditor John Pouchet, management duped the board of directors (BOD) into believing that Oudit possessed a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

In fact, the findings stated it was the second time management had misled the board by representing that Oudit was the holder of a MBA.

The first occasion was in 2011 when Oudit was hired as the general manager of finance at the ERHA.

In spite of the authority stating that recruitment was subject to the relevant background checks being conducted, Oudit’s false academic MBA qualification was submitted to the board via board paper reference number BOD/2011/338 for him to be hired.

This was contrary to Oudit’s curriculum vitae (CV) that lists him as partially completing the MBA in General Management from Henley Management College in the United Kingdom.

Oudit’s CV fails to list the year he enrolled to pursue the MBA in General Management.

And nowhere in Oudit’s CV he is listed as attaining the MBA.  However, for a second time another board paper reference number BOD/2013/192 was falsely prepared stating otherwise for Oudit to be given the nod to be hired as the authority’s COO. 

Exactly who is responsible for padding the board papers with the false information is unknown. 

But the saga does not end there though as perusal of the audit showed that from the inception, Oudit’s employment as the COO has been shrouded in controversy.

How Oudit ended up being hired as the authority’s COO—a position for which he never applied—has also raised red flags,  the audit revealed.

Oudit was hired as the authority’s COO on October 30, 2013 and assumed duties two days later on November 1. The audit said that Oudit was interviewed to fill the chief executive officer (CEO) vacancy and not that of the COO.

Oudit placed second in the interview, scoring 274 points. Attorney Ameena Ali, the authority’s CEO, placed first with 293 points and was offered the job.

The audit said although Ali did not meet the minimum requirement of 10 years’ experience in general management she was hired as CEO of the authority based on her 30 years work experience and her sound knowledge of core operations in the health sector. 

The interview panel which comprised chairman Dr Stephen Bhagan, directors Nazimul Ali, Rampersad Parasram and Ryan Ramcharan along with deputy permanent secretary Asif Ali then opted to offer Oudit the COO’s job.

 “The post of COO was not advertised. The general manager of human resources (GMHR) indicated that the recently conducted interviews for CEO  were used to make a decision to the appointment of the COO,” the audit stated.

While it was noted that the HR Policies and Procedures Manual subsection, Filling  of Vacancies, states that the authority may promote an employee without first advertising the position based on the available evidence that he/she is the most suitable person to fill the vacancy, the audit said the criteria did not apply to Oudit. 

The audit said: “The successful candidate did not meet the minimum requirement of a post graduate degree in hospital administration, health service admission or business administration. The candidate had the professional accounting qualification ACCA and his CV indicated that he had partially completed a MBA in General Management. 

“The overall minimum requirements for this position, however, did state that any equivalent combination of qualifications, training and experience would be accepted. Internal audit saw no documentary evidence of the partial completion of the MBA in the employee’s personal file.”

It was also noted that there was no stipulation in Oudit’s contract that mandated to attain the relevant qualification by a specified date.

The contract for the COO, the audit said, was signed by Bhagan although all employees’ contracts except that of the CEO would normally be signed by the CEO. 

The authority’s CEO assumed duties on November 1, 2013 just two days after the contract was signed hiring Oudit as the COO.

Meanwhile, in another matter it was also discovered that Oudit signed as CEO of the authority to hire Legal Officer Anita Rampaul. 

A copy of the contract dated November 4, 2013 and obtained by the Sunday Express shows Oudit’s signature affixed to the document in the capacity of acting CEO.

Records show that Ali, the  authority’s CEO, was hired on November 1. 

As to why Oudit signed as the acting CEO when at the time he held the post of the COO is unknown but the audit frowned upon the discrepancy and stated: “Although board approval is normally sought for all posts that are not pegged to the salary scale for public servants, especially for employees whose salary range starts at an amount higher than range 55 there was no board approval for this employee to be hired. This position would also have reported directly to the BOD and as such board approval should have been sought.  The GMHR indicated that she made enquiries through the board secretariat and was informed that board approval was not necessary for this post. Internal audit was informed by staff at the board secretariat that they had no recollection of this.”

Based on the unauthorised signatory the audit noted that Rampaul’s contract may be deemed not valid. 

HR boss file missing

The audit also unearthed that the GMHR Tricia Leela did not meet the minimum requirements to be appointed to the senior position.

And attempts by Pouchet to get answers as to basis of Leela’s appointment to GMHR were unsuccessful as, like many other employees, her interview file has gone missing.

Leela was hired as manager of Employment and Employee  Services on January 3, 2012 and three months later on April 16 she was interviewed to act as the GMHR. 

She was appointed GMHR effective May 1, 2012. Although Leela’s file could not be located the audit revealed the following information based on board papers and her personal file, according to the audit: 

“The  successful candidate did not meet the minimum requirement for a first degree in social sciences and a Post Graduate Degree in Human Resource Management. The candidate has a MBA from Heriot-Watt, an associate degree in Management from ROYTEC and a certificate in HR management (one-year academic course) from Cipriani College of Labour and Corporative Studies. The successful candidate did not meet the minimum of ten years’ experience, five of which must be HR management.”

It was also noted that the manager of industrial relations, compensation and benefits administration who had been employed since June 1, 2010 was not interviewed for the post of GMHR. 

Questions over 

interview process

The audit also found that the interview process surrounding Leela’s employment as manager of employment and employer services was irregular.

According to the audit, two interviews were held for the position in 2011 on November 11 and 22. 

Board paper reference number BOD/2011/349 dated November 29, 2011 said the reason for the second interview was a need for transparency.

The interview panel on November 11 comprised of the chairman, one director and the CEO at the time.

In the first interview the audit stated: “The chairman of the board ranked the second placed candidate (Leela) highest by one point. The candidate, (Nadia Ali), who placed first was ranked the highest by the director and the CEO. The candidate’s qualifications included a bachelor of science degree (BSc) in sociology with a minor in  HR management and a Master of Science Degree (MSc) in HR management and she was a member of the HR Management Association of T&T.  The candidate, however, was not offered employment.” 

In an attempt to arrive at a consensus, a second interview was conducted and the interview panel was expanded to include another director and the director of HR at the Ministry of Health (MOH).

A decision was taken to invite only Leela and Ali to the second interview.

However, the audit stated: “All three panelists from the first interview scored the candidate (Ali) who placed higher in the first interview lower,  in the second interview while scoring her competition higher.  The second-placed candidate (Leela) from the first interview enhanced her standing relative to the candidate previously ranked first by 49 points from the same three panelists who conducted the interview. This reversal would have been more credible if the consensus among the panelists was unanimous.  However, the director of HR at the MOH scored the candidate (Ali) who ranked first in the previous interview highest.”

Spencer’s CV 

Regarding the employment of the Manager of Purchasing and Logistics, Rennick Spencer,  the audit also discovered that he does not possess  a  MBA in General Management as listed on his CV.  

The audit stated:  “The successful candidate did not meet the minimum requirement of a first degree in either business management or equivalent and should be fully certified in chartered institute of purchasing.  The candidate’s CV listed a MBA in general management with all the courses. It was determined, however, that the MBA was not complete. The candidate’s CV was misleading.”

Spencer’s CV listed him as pursuing his MBA between 2010 and 2011.

And although there was a stipulation in Spencer’s contract that stated the MBA should be completed within one year, failing which his contract could be terminated, the audit found that  his contract was renewed for a further two years on August 7, 2013. 

Spencer was one of the two candidates short-listed for the job.

According to Leela, Spencer was hired after the candidate who placed first in the interview rejected the job offer. However, board approval was not sought for the appointment.  

Proper hiring procedures not followed

The audit also discovered that proper procedures were not followed relating to the hiring of  manager of cost and management accounting, and the acting appointments of the research officer and the quality coordinator. 

In the case of the manager of Cost and Management Accounting, the audit stated that the successful candidate, Sushma Brahma Prashad, did not meet the minimum requirement of a full ACCA or CIMA certification.  

 While the board paper reference number BOD/2012/269 noted that Brahma Prashad was scheduled to write her final examination in June 2013 no documentary evidence was seen in her personal file confirming that she completed the course. With regards to the acting appointments. the audit noted that it was unclear whether the positions were advertised allowing other potential candidates to be interviewed. The audit noted that there was a breach of the HR policies and procedures relating to the two acting appointments.

In its conclusion the audit stated:  “The filing system in the HR department is not of an acceptable standard. Several files requested from the HR department could not be located, including the interview file for the current GMHR and the lists of applicants who applied for specific post before a short list was compiled for interviewing.” 

It was further noted: “The authority has recruited several  senior employees who do not have the minimum requirements for the offices they hold. In many of the cases no condition has been included in these employees’ contracts that they actively attempt to achieve these requirements, and when there was such a stipulation it was not enforced.” 

Bhagan: Other documents contain audit queries 

Contacted yesterday, ERHA chairman Stephen Bhagan told the Sunday Express the audit was initiated by him. 

Bhagan said: “Nearly every two years an audit is done. The audit has been sent to the Health Ministry for them to decide what action has to be taken. Whatever suggestions made by the auditor we would have to implement. The audit was done in a hurry. There were some things that the auditor asked for and the documents were not there. We had the answers in other papers.”