Sunday, December 17, 2017

‘Suspend all payment’

$.8m settlement for ex-CEO of National Quarries

Saying he was “outraged”, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called on Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine to ensure that state-owned National Quarries (NQ) withholds all payment and perks to suspended chief executive officer Sandra Fernandez.

Speaking at a news conference at his Charles Street, Port of Spain office, Rowley dealt with the “scandalous revelations” in this week’s Sunday Express that Fernandez was due to receive a $839,000 payout.

He said  this was in keeping with a number of other instances in state enterprises where Government had been “turning a blind eye” to persons with false qualifications, sometimes even defending it and defending the earning of people who got their jobs on this basis. 

“But this one takes the cake. Because we are being told that the person is to be paid for the full extent of the original contract...the full unexpired portion of the contract, gratuity and other perks. In other words, the person would be paid to do nothing in a job which ought never have to been had. 

“And the question of criminality in subjecting the population to false qualification is a by-the-way which they (the company and Government) won’t deal with. We (the Government and company) would just pay the money,” said Rowley. 

“On behalf of every taxpayer in Trinidad and Tobago, this outrage must not stand. And I am calling on the relevant minister to ensure that the board at National Quarries does no such thing and the only thing that the board must, and is required to do, is to pass to the police any fraudulent qualification which had been submitted to National Quarries. And against that background National Quarries must withhold all payment and perks (to Fernandez). It is a slap in the face of all decent qualified persons in this country.”

Rowley said this was a new type of corruption, “a new cancer where you make your own qualification, hand it to the Government, get taxpayers’ money and get the Government to defend you”.

 Noting that this was happening across the state sector, Rowley said in all instances where persons are deemed to have submitted false qualifications for jobs, the matter should be referred to the police and the Fraud Squad. 

 “It breeds a kind of threat because very soon there would be pharmacists, doctors and pilots doing the same thing and you would be half-way up in the air and being told that the person in the cockpit does not have the qualifications he claims to have or lying on a bed and the person who just gave you a life-and-death injection made their own qualifications. There are very serious dangers involved in encouraging persons with false qualifications to advance themselves and take up positions, putting the public at risk,” he said.

The Sunday Express reported that an agreement was made between NQ and the legal representatives Fernandez to pay the former CEO $839,000.

 The payout comes following the suspension of Fernandez after she could not produce academic qualifications which were listed on her resume.

  A tribunal had been established to address these concerns, following her failure to submit proof of all the qualifications stated in her CV, despite repeated requests to do so.