Friday, February 23, 2018

Staff beg PM: Stop ‘madness’ at NLCB

They may be handing out millions of dollars and making many a lotte­ry winner happy, but staff at the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) are down in the dumps.

In fact, they have written to Finance

Minister Larry Howai, who has min­is­terial responsibility for the NLCB, complaining about what they say are

unfair hiring practices, breach of established policies and alleged ill-treatment of staff. 

They have also copied their four-page letter, dated November 8, 2013,

to Prime Minister Kamla-Persad Bis­sessar, chairman of the Integrity Com-

mission Ken Gordon and Comp­trol­ler of Accounts Roslyn Ramdin Doobraj, asking for an investigation and action to be taken about their concerns.

For fear of “victimisation”, the aggrieved staff apologised to the Prime Minister for not signing their names on the cover letter, telling her, “We mean no disrespect and we sincerely apologise if having taken this action, there is any element of negative PR.”

NLCB chairman Winston Siriram confirmed staff had written to Howai and the letter was authentic.

They told Howai the NLCB office in

Port of Spain has become an “unbear­-

able” place to work and believe “some-

body has to make a seri­ous attempt to halt the absolute madness that is taking place within and even outside the walls of the NLCB”.

Claiming low staff morale, staffers said this started in January 2012, following the appointment of director Camille Forde by the Statutory Au­tho­rity Services Commission (SASC). They claim another NLCB employee and deputy director Gemma Joseph, who had over 35 years of experience, was “bypassed”. 

They allege over the past two years,

senior and qualified staff are being bypassed for promotional oppor­tuni­ties in favour of junior and temporary staff while “service providers” are reaping the benefits at NLCB. Staff meetings with managerial heads are non-existent and the human resource department is just a rubber stamp for hiring decisions taken else­where. 

“Communication is non-existent and members only know that some­thing is taking place if and when

they see an advertisement or when it actually happens,” workers said,

adding they are no longer involved in the planning or co-ordinating of events since such activities are being outsourced to friends and family of certain top members. 

They also told Howai never before has the office of the director of NLCB been provided legal advice without going through proper tendering pro­cedures and pointed to a new service provider who they claim is now inti­mately involved in the processes involving “sponsorship and the pro­cure­ment of give-away items”.

They point to inconsistencies in the award of sponsorships and multi­million-dollar give-away transactions as they called on Howai to “launch a speedy and thorough investigation into the affairs of what is this country’s richest State board outside of the ener­gy sector”.

They explained further that some staff who have been employed at NLCB

for 17 years are yet to be con­firmed in their positions despite positive apprai­sals and some are being threatened with termination or told their contracts shall not be renewed. 

In a stated appeal to the prime min­ister, NLCB staff warned she may have lost the local government election last year because of the actions of those in authority that “are largely responsible for the growing unpopularity of your Government”.

They called on her to immediately investigate the affairs of NLCB and to protect the employees. 

In confirming a letter was sent to the Finance Minister, chairman Siri­ram told the Sunday Express it is the SASC who appointed the current direc-

­­tor and because of the structure of the organisation, this director is not a director on the board. 

Pointing to serious communication problems at NLCB, he said: “Forde has a very different style, and I think she means well, but there is little communication between staff. Her com­munication skills are poor, and the situation has gotten worse since that letter was written last year. 

“I have been in there trying to make things work since people must have confidence in this place. I have been trying very hard to bridge the gap between the two parties—the staff and the director.” 

In December last year, Siriram’s pre-

­decessor, Mitra Mahabir, had raised the issue of Forde’s performance with the permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance and recommended she receive training.