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Nepotism at NWRHA

Date: 1/6/2005, 6:27 am

Senior exec involved in recruitment company �

Nepotism at NWRHA

By Lara Pickford-Gordon, www.newsday.co.tt/stories.php?article_id=23391

The North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) yesterday admitted that a company run by the
relative of a senior executive has been used for recruitment for senior positions. During a television
interview yesterday, Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne, head of the neonatal unit of the Port-of-Spain
General Hospital, criticised the hiring practices in the NWRHA and the process of selecting people to
fill vacancies. "How can one expect to do any better when a person who is a senior member of the
Board professes to advertise a senior position, people are interviewed and at the same time the
company on which your name appears on the letterhead is recruiting?"

Manning-Alleyne also said the senior Board member also sits on the interview committee, "and at
the end of it the one who came through your company gets the job." At a media briefing at the
Health Ministry on Park Street, Health Minister John Rahael said he heard the remark. He said,
"(The) NWRHA went out for human resource and among those the chairman has interest in one of
those HR companies and they also provide personnel for North West." Rahael asked NWRHA CEO
Cynthia Carrington-Murray, who was sitting next to him at the media briefing, if this was true and
she responded, "Yes." Asked what positions the company was involved in recruiting for, she said
vice-president human resources and vice-president finance.

Asked if this was a conflict of interest, Carrington-Murray turned to the Health Minister and replied,
"Yes." Rahael replied, "Well tell them that." He told the media that the ministry was not aware of
the situation and Chairman Hugh Eastman will have to respond. "We will check with the Board too."
Eastman is out of the country and due to return today. "When he comes back we will enquire what
exactly transpired. I want to get the proper information before we respond. I urge you to wait until
the chairman responds to find out if it met with Board approval." Carrington said although the
company is named "Eastman and Eastman," she did not know if the chairman had shares.
Permanent Secretary Reynold Cooper said anyone with an interest in a matter that came before the
Board must declare their interest and should not be part of discussions. Cooper said they must
vacate the room. Asked if the chairman was part of any interview panel, Carrington-Murray said he
was on the HR panel to fill the HR vacancy.


The plague of cronyism, nepotism


Sun Apr 03 2016

Mickela Panday

The structure of government in T&T has changed dramatically since Independence. It is less cen-
tralised that it used to be and several functions once performed by Central Government have been
given to state agencies and state enterprises which are staffed by contract employees and not by
staff of ministries of government.

For example, the postal service, once part of the Public Service, was scrapped and TTPost created.
Many of the functions Ministry of Works once performed are now done by public bodies like Nidco,
Udecott and the Rural Development Company of T&T. It is the RHAs, not the Ministry of Health, that
are primarily responsible for public health care and the EFCL, not the Ministry of Education, builds
our schools.

Whilst functions for the delivery of essential utilities eg, water, electricity and telephone continue to
be performed by state bodies, namely WASA, T&TEC, and Telco (since absorbed into TSTT, which is
majority owned by the State), modern functions are now performed by new specialist public bodies
eg, the EMA, SWMCOL and E-TecK.

Add to that those public bodies like the Central Bank, the ADB, the Port Authority, the Airports Au-
thority, Petrotrin and NGC, as well as those which are arguably no business of the State eg, CNMG
and CAL, and it becomes apparent that these public bodies control billions of dollars of our money.
There are over 200 of these public bodies, including 45 state enterprises. They are companies creat-
ed by statute or incorporated by Parliament or under the Companies Act. In respect of power, pres-
tige and expenditure, certain of them are arguably bigger than any ministry and their boards bigger
than any minister.

Notably, it is the government in power that appoints the boards of directors of these public bodies,
and herein is where the first problem lies. There is no buffer or assurance of autonomy as is the case
in the public service where appointments are made by independent service commissions established
by the Constitution. As a result, in respect of these public bodies, often there is direct control by the
political executive.

Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, in such circumstances, political allegiance and
loyalty, cronyism and nepotism often trump competence, experience, merit and ability when making
these appointments. The Government of the day, wielding its power as principal shareholder, places
the emphasis on unswerving dedication to towing the political line and connections, causing boards
to disregard or ignore their fiduciary duties (which are paramount) to the public bodies themselves
and by extension, to the country that owns these state assets. Friends and family are given plum po-
sitions without regard to their lack of qualifications or experience, the outcome of which is misman-
agement, inefficiency and wastefulness in our public bodies.
Political allegiance, cronyism and nepotism, as the dominant factors, work their way down through
the system from the political executive to the boards to management and to the workforce. A minis-
ter may direct the board, and the board aided by submissive management will, pursuant to the di-
rective, terminate employees perceived to be disloyal or disruptive, without due process.

It is no secret, cronyism and nepotism perhaps reached an all-time high during the last administra-
tion. It became obvious that a certain select group of contractors and attorneys were favoured by
these public bodies as well as by the Central Government. There appeared to be a complete subordi-
nation by these public bodies to the political executive in the engagement of professional services
without regard to merit and competence.

Then of course, there is the insidious matter of corruption in its different forms, whether by bid-rig-
ging the procurement process, kickbacks, bribes, selection of unqualified and inexperienced contrac-
tors, dummy legal invoices to channel cash payments, or payments made for work known to have
not been done and for services known to have not been provided. Who can forget the $400 million
Life Sport programme, and the astonishing revelation that a company received $34 million for work
never done?

As previously stated, it is therefore imperative that our institutions eg, the Auditor General, the FIU,
the BIR, the Integrity Commission, the Police Service, the DPP and the courts are strengthened so as
to highlight and effectively address the extent of cronyism, nepotism and corruption in public bodies
and to make errant boards, ministers, contractors and attorneys account, and in some cases, pay.

It is equally imperative that merit, competence, experience, independence, honesty, and suitable
qualifications be the only criteria for board appointments if we are to have a productive and efficient
state sector which is both accountable and transparent–and that applies to both sides of the political