Saturday, February 24, 2018

'Lack of $$ delayed finding new CoP'


committee sitting: Police Service Commission chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran greets board member Jacqueline Cheesman following yesterday's sitting of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament at Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) Gloria Edwards-Joseph said yesterday "our hands were tied'' in response to claims her office was responsible for the delay in the appointment of a substantive Police Commissioner.

Edwards-Joseph blamed the lack of funding from the Finance Ministry for the delay.

She made the statement yesterday during a Joint Select Committee meeting at the J Hamilton Maurice Room of the Parliament Chamber, at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, to review the Police Service Commission (PSC).

Last year, PSC chairman Prof Ramesh Deosaran said the commission was in "wonder-land" over when a substantive police commissioner would be appointed.

The post became vacant on August 7 last year, following the resignation of Canadian Dr Dwayne Gibbs.

Deputy Police Commissioner Jack Ewatski also tendered his resignation at the same time as his countryman Gibbs.

Stephen Williams took the reins of the Police Service following Gibbs's resignation.

Williams's initial acting appointment was to end on January 31—next Thursday. However, last Thursday, Williams's acting appointment was extended by a further six months—to July 31.

According to Legal Notice #102 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, the DPA's office has to firstly contract a firm to conduct the assessment process for selecting the country's police commissioner.

The process of finding a firm to conduct the assessment for selecting a police commissioner began only on Thursday, Edwards-Joseph said yesterday.

She outlined the steps taken by her office since Gibbs's resignation.

"Yes, the vacancies did occur in July, but you recall that the sudden resignation of the two officers created the vacancies. Before we begin the process of engaging firms, the source of funding has to be identified," Edwards-Joseph said.

Edwards-Joseph said "immediately" as the vacancies occurred she wrote the Finance Ministry, "alerting them that we needed $4 million".

The process used to select Gibbs cost taxpayers $4 million, Edwards-Joseph said.

"The Ministry of Finance assured us that they were going to make the necessary... they were going to put it in the (national) budget and we had to await the outcome of the budget discussions in September and the passage (of the budget) in Parliament," she said.

"As the budget was passed, we looked at our figures and we still did not see the $4 million. What we saw was $2 million. But even then, I informed the chairman (of the PSC) that we had not gotten the exact amount requested and we started again dialogue with the Ministry of Finance to get additional funding," Edwards-Joseph said.

"I met with my accountant and my director of audit services to see what we could do with the $2 million, and I started to speak with Nipdec (the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd)," she said.

Nipdec is responsible for finding a firm to conduct the assessment process for selecting the country's police commissioner.

Edwards-Joseph said she received a letter from Nipdec on Thursday, "accepting the offer to engage with the exercise" despite the shortfall in funds.

"Although the commissioner left since July, our hands were tied with respect to going forward with the process. We did not have the source of funds to move right away and move ahead with the process," Edwards-Joseph said.

"Is this a satisfactory position?" JSC chairman Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan asked.

"The answer is no," Deosaran said.

Deosaran described the process as a "bureaucratic nightmare".

He said the process is "straitjacketed" by the current arrangement, and called on the PSC to be provided with its own funds.

Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar said the process was "moving not like molasses, but moving like tar".

Deosaran said up until Gibbs's final day in office, he was "deliberating with him to establish succession planning" in the Police Service.

Now that Nipdec has begun the process of finding a firm to conduct the assessment, the country should have a substantive police commissioner within the next "three to four months", Edwards-Joseph said.