Former T&T finance minister slams integrity body
(Trinidad Guardian) Former Finance Minister Karen Tesheira yesterday described as “highly improper and highly irregular,” the conduct of the Integrity Commission in its pursuit of a conflict of interest probe against her. Tesheira was reacting to yesterday’s exclusive publication by the Sunday Guardian of the contents of an apology that the Integrity Commission sent to Tesheira, who now lectures in civil law at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. She dismissed the apology issued by the Integrity Commission to her last month as being “half-baked and not genuine at all.” In the interview yesterday, Tesheira also said the Integrity Commission “has done tremendous damage to my reputation by giving credibility to the insider information allegations of the Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.”
She said she was reserving her legal options in terms of redressing the damage to her reputation. Tesheira said her description of the conduct of the Integrity Commission as being “highly improper and highly irregular” was justified for three reasons:
The commission wrote to her in March 2010, alleging that she had committed a conflict of interest breach, but they focused their questioning at the one and only meeting in October 2010 on insider information.
At that meeting, she said, a KPMG employee from Canada, who was conducting the probe on behalf of the Integrity Commission, issued a “veiled threat” that he would report her to the authorities for failing to co-operate with the investigation:
• Having accused her of one thing but focused their questions of her on something else, Tesheira said the Integrity Commission, in its September 7, 2011, letter—in which the commission indicated that it was referring the Tesheira matter to the DPP—failed to identify the breach she was alleged to have committed.
The law lecturer said the Integrity Commission failed to identify the breach either in its letter to her or in its letter to the person who made the original conflict of interest complaint in March 2009, Devant Maharaj.
Maharaj, who was an activist for the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha in March 2009, was appointed as the Minister of Transport earlier this year.
Failure to identify or specify the laws it is alleged someone broke is a breach of natural justice, Tesheira said.
• Tesheira said the breaches of proper procedure by the Integrity Commission were compounded by the body notifying her and the complainant on the same day, September 7, 2011, that the matter had been referred to the DPP. On that very day, the Prime Minister read out the letter to Devant Maharaj in Parliament—but not before Persad-Bissessar made a reference to Tesheira taking money out of CIB on Old Year’s Day “when other people putting on nail polish and cutex and combing their hair and putting on their pretty dresses to go off to Old Year’s night fetes.” The former minister said the vagueness of the commission’s letter facilitated the Prime Minister in misleading the Parliament and the nation by implying that the Tesheira matter had been sent to the DPP because of misuse of insider information.
• Tesheira said her attorneys had to write four letters to the Integrity Commission—requesting that the body specify the offence she had been reported to the DPP for—for the commission to admit that it had no basis for sending the conflict of interest matter to the DPP under Section 34 (7). Tesheira, who described the commission’s apology as “half-baked,” said the body would never have owned up to its mistake were it not for the persistence of her attorneys and their threat to seek judicial review of the decision to send the file to the DPP.